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Transitional home seeks to bridge the gap for foster care youth

By Kirsten Swann 8:26 PM November 6, 2013

Anchorage non-profit spearheads independent living project for men ages 18-21

ANCHORAGE – For Alaskan social workers, it’s a familiar cycle.

Teens bounce between different foster homes, drop out of school, get into trouble and end up at McLaughlin Youth Center or another local juvenile detention center. When they turn 18, the game changes.

“It’s not McLaughlin anymore, it’s the big boy’s house,” said Jeudy Dorzion, who works for the Anchorage non-profit Changing Faces, Inc. “We’re here to try to bridge that gap.”

Dorzion’s organization is working to open a transitional living home in East Anchorage for men ages 18-21. The two-story house on Tudor Road would provide a home base for ten men and boys working to move out of the foster care system: They’d receive counseling, career guidance, educational support and basic life skills training necessary to live independently.

As of October, the Office of Children’s Services reports there were more than 2,000 youth circulating through Alaska’s foster care system. The majority of them were male, and 70 were 18 or older.

Patricia Johnson, Changing Faces’ CEO and founder, said her organization was working with OCS to fill a major need within Alaska’s foster care system.

“They had a lot of males on their waiting list that were hard to place,” she said.

Once the transitional home receives the final licenses necessary to open its doors, Johnson said the facility could present a life-changing opportunity for Alaskan youth.

The home is almost ready.

Each bedroom is outfitted in blues and greens, and the downstairs common area features overstuffed couches and a widescreen TV. Johnson said Changing Faces is still seeking donations to finish furnishing the home, and volunteers to mentor the young men who will live there. An open house is scheduled for Nov. 26 from 6-7 p.m at the home at 3201 E. Tudor Rd., and Johnson said the facility hopes to take in residents by December.

Dorzion said the work is a labor of love. She had been adopted at a young age after her own parents were murdered, and she said she’d developed a passion for helping other children facing similar situations.

“I’ve seen the cycle,” she said.

Through Changing Faces, Dorzion said she and Johnson clung to the idea of community involvement. It takes a village to raise a child, they said, and they envisioned the transitional home as a place for the Anchorage community to help lift up the youth who’d fallen through the cracks of the foster care system.

“We’re just trying to help however we can,” she said.

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