Former Foster Child Overcomes Abuse and Neglect, Becomes Advocate For Youth Aging Out Of Care

For many, turning 18 means being one step closer to becoming a happy, successful adult. Unfortunately, for some foster youth turning 18 means they’re on their own. The Epoch Times reports:

“People don’t realize that at 18, when their own kids are going to prom or preparing for college, these kids are going to homelessness,” Lauri Burns…said in Astoria on Tuesday.

Burns was born on Long Island and learned firsthand what it was like to grow up in the foster care system after experiencing the horrors of an abusive family. After exiting the system at age 18, and with no place to go, she hit the streets, living a self-destructive lifestyle.

After surviving a brutal beating from two gunmen, Burns knew it was time to turn her life around and entered rehab. She went on to publish a book chronicling her own life and founded The Teen Project, which helps keep other foster youth from becoming homeless:

Burns has been taking in at-risk youth for the past 20 years in California, including serving as a foster mother for 13 years.

She created The Teen Project in 2007 to give youth an alternative to life on the streets. “I started it because I couldn’t believe that nobody else was taking care of these kids who are leaving at 18,” Burns said.

Although Burns can’t take in everyone in need of a home, The Teen Project has grown to become a national resource for former foster youth:

[Burns] has set up a way to extend her reach far beyond her doorstep. The IT director at Northrop Grumman, a self-described “computer geek,” got together with a developer and created a way for people to find the nearest shelters via text.

Burns hopes that through this texting program or even by reading her book, more people can get the help they need. “Since I have started on The Teen Project, to abandon it now would mean all those kids going back to homelessness.” Burns said.

While Burns admits the responsibility can be a lot to carry, she points to the kids as the reason why she keeps going:

“These kids are amazing to be around.”