Studies show children in foster care are at a greater risk of facing drug abuse, homelessness and incarceration later in life, but a local nonprofit is trying to change that.
San Diego nonprofit Just in Time for Foster Youth says their new book "Life Changing Choices" can teach communities how to improve life for foster children. Caitlin Raidgan helped write the book after she spent several years in foster care.
"I can speak personally from my experience in foster care, being incarcerated as a ward of the court. I know the adults who handled my case had the intention of protecting me from myself. So the outcomes weren't so great," said Radigan. "I was being criminalized for being in survival mode."
The book outlines philosophies for nonprofits and communities to keep in mind to provide better care. One of those ideas is to change the way communities view foster youth.
Irving Chavez says the foster care system treated him as if he was broken, making it hard to reach for success.
"The lens of 'damaged' or 'broken' sends a message we're beyond repair: a lost cause," said Chavez. "The lens of creative, resourceful and whole empowers us to find our true selves, which we were taught not to see."
The nonprofit says progress can't come soon enough. The National Foster Youth Institute says one out of five kids instantly become homeless after leaving the foster system. In the meantime, half, at some point, will become dependent on drugs.
It's a cycle the nonprofit wants to break, one page at a time.
"Changing the way we think about our youth changes the way we communicate with our youth, which changes the way we have relationships with our youth," said Radigan. "Then we'll see such a change in the outcome in the way we're serving them."
Source: ABC News 10 San Diego