Michigan organization helps young adults who turn 18 without plans or place to call home

Covenant House Michigan helps teenagers from foster care system

DETROIT - For many young people, turning 18 years old is a rite of passage, but for those in foster care who haven't been adopted, they can find themselves on their own without plans or a place to call home.

"Aging out of the system" happens to far too many children in the foster care system, but there's an organization called Covenant House Michigan that's trying to help.

"I just close my eyes, touch one and read it," Bobbie Dickerson said.

Dickerson starts every day reciting positive affirmations and Scriptures. She first entered foster care at age 5.

"I kind of grew up on my own from 13 until I reached about 18 -- well, until now," Dickerson said. "It just wasn't steady. It was a lot of abuse, a lot of neglect, a lot of verbal abuse. I didn't really have a childhood, so it was like I grew up on my own. Like, I grew up pretty fast. From 13 until now, I basically taught myself everything."

Jumping from one foster care home to anther, Dickerson said her childhood was tough.

"I would run away from the foster homes for different reasons," she said. "One of my old foster mothers, like with the checks, her foster daughter that she adopted, she would get her nice stuff that was up-to-date. But when it came to me, she would go to the Salvation Army and would get clothes that were too small or too big for me to where I would be talked about in school. But I ran away and stayed gone until I turned 18."

After a brief connection with her biological mother in a different state, Dickerson found her way back to Michigan. She went to a covenant house.

"It's been good," Dickerson said. "(It's) a little different because I'm not used to having rules because I raised myself, so it's a little different. Like I said, it's a sacrifice. Do I want to better my life or do I want to keep repeating the same cycles?"

Covenant House is an organization that helps young people ages 18 to 24 by providing a safe place to live and offering services to direct them toward a path of successful adulthood.

Kimberly Davis is one of the social workers with Covenant House.

"The majority of our clients are from foster care, and oftentimes, we see that is where a lot of the trauma has come from," Davis said. "Lack of love, lack of life skills, you know? So they come here and they're seeking it all here."

They learn life skills that many people take for granted. It's somewhat of a crash course to adulthood, and young men and women are taught everything from interpersonal skills to hygiene and job training. They also teach them how to save and budget money.

Something as simple as a daily routine has helped Dickerson turn her life around.

"Wake up in the morning pretty early if you haven't worked the previous day," she said. "You'll eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at a set time. You'll have a set programming, like the groups that we go to, everything is set and, like, planned out."

"She's come a long way," Davis said. "She has. I'm proud of her. Physically, mentally emotionally, I'm proud of her."

Dickerson is in a two-year program. There is also a 90-day program.

Once they find a job, Covenant House clients save their money to one day get a place of their own.

"Over here, we expect them to be more independent -- working, putting up to 70 percent of the income, being able to follow the rules," Davis said. "That's what we look at while they're in care with us."

Dickerson is now a certified nursing assistant with a job at a local rehabilitation center. It's a certification she obtained through a $500 program and one that she said she never would have been able to afford if not for Covenant House.

She has big goals and wants to continue her studies.

"Five years from now, I hope to be finished with school to become a registered nurse," Dickerson said. "I wanted to open up my own daycare for elder and runaway teens. So in five years, I want to be established with a family with a business going with my degrees."

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