Mount Dora Woman gets Satisfaction Helping Young Adults in Extended Foster Care

The Orlando Sentinel featured a story about one of our foster parents that is helping teens who are staying in Extended Foster Care. Click here to read the article.

Ethel Badger has 748 kids who call her mom.

Although she only has five children, she opened her home and heart to hundreds of others from across the area as a foster parent. Badger, 63, has opened her home once again. This time it’s for young adults who have turned 18 and aged out of the foster-care system.

As part of a new statewide extended foster-care system, Badger recently took in an 18-year old woman who still needs added support to get ahead in life.

“This program is a second chance,” Badger said. “It’s like hope.”

Through the Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act, which was passed in May 2013, young adults in foster care have the option to remain in the system until age 21 to graduate high school, complete a college education or get a technical degree. This is the first program that allows young adults to remain in foster care after turning 18 to finish their education and get much-needed service and support.

Hannah Rios, an independent living supervisor for Kids Central Inc., said several young adults have been placed in a five-county area. Kids Central handles child-protective services in Lake, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties.

Rios said many of the young adults who enter the extended foster-care program locally are 18. The transition is easier for them rather than young adults who have been homeless after aging out of the system.

“It can be difficult for those young adults coming back to us who are homeless because they have been on their own for so long,” she said. “We are hopeful, as more people volunteer to be host homes for this population, that we will have more enticing housing options to accommodate the unique needs of each young adult.”

For Badger and her husband, Robert, the program is the chance to make a difference in yet another person’s life. For the past several decades, the couple has taken in hundreds of foster children. While running the first emergency abuse shelter for Lake children years ago, Badger said they “witnessed just about every kind of abuse a child could encounter.” Nearly 750 children passed through their doors. Today, she sees many of them when she’s running around town or pastoring her church, the House of God Church in Mount Dora. Many still call her mom.

In taking part in the extended-foster-care program, Badger set out this summer to make yet another impact on a young life. In June, a young woman named Ashley moved in. She was in foster care from age 2 to 6 and at age 17 she was back in. Last week, Ashley, now 18, moved to a transitional living home in Marion County, where she grew up as a foster child, Badger said. She has her eye on becoming a law-enforcement officer.

“I got in trouble in the past and that end of the law is a lot better than being in jail,” she said of become a law-enforcement officer.

Badger said she tried to balance helping Ashley get a good start for her future and giving her space for independence.

“I helped her to stabilize into adulthood and I think she’s probably going to be OK,” she said.

To learn more about the program, call 352-387-3482.