New Ministry for Foster Kids Who Are 'Aging Out' Focus of New 'Up Front' EpisodeOct 02, 2020 03:14PM ● By Jason Huddle
Episode 77: The Open Door House
Every year, thousands of young adults age out of the foster care system and are left to fend for themselves on the streets. Thankfully there are are some in our community who are willing to help. This week, we speak to Kathy Lista of the Open Door House. Almost ready to open in Concord, NC, this is a house that young adults, who are transitioning out of the system, can live in as they prepare to enter society. If you have a heart to help those in need, you don't want to miss this episode!
Jason Huddle 00:01
Just a head on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine,
Kathy Lista 00:03
You know in our country in the US, up to 25,000 kids age out of foster care every year. And of that almost 25,000, 20% become instantly homeless, over 50% at some point before the age or by the age of 25, will experienced at least one night of homelessness.
Jason Huddle 00:24
Every year in our community at around the country, foster children are aging out of the system and have nowhere to go.
Kathy Lista 00:30
And one thing I just want to point out to about these these kids that are in foster care, you know, people need to remember that 99% of the time that kid is in foster care, no fault of their own. They did nothing to be in that situation.
Jason Huddle 00:44
But we found someone in our community that's willing to do something about it. This week, we talked to the folks from The Open Door House, a new transitional home for young adults aging out of the system that will help serve as a launchpad as they prepare to be part of society. That's coming up right now on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group. And sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Geico Concord Mills Office, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center, and Walk Cabarrus. I'm your host Jason Huddle. Hello, my friends, and welcome to Episode 77 of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. You know, there are some topics that touched my heart deeper than others and foster care and adoptive care is something that definitely does. Anybody that knows me knows that my wife and I just adopted our foster daughter. The adoption was finalized in August. And we are so happy she is part of our family. But unfortunately, there are thousands of children right now that are not fortunate enough to have a permanent family. And many of them as they get older, are harder to adopt. And therefore, they age out of the system. And at a certain point, the system stops assisting them. And so statistically, kids that age out of foster care, do end up on the streets, they end up in jail, they end up as drug users. And it's very sad that this is a fact of life. No, that's not true for every child that ages out, but the stats are against them. So my wife and I were just kind of scrolling around Facebook the other night. And we found information on a new place right here in our community called The Open Door House. Now this is going to be a transitional home for teens, young adults, aging out of the system, it's going to give them a place to be while they try to get their footing in society. I think it's a great idea. It's a wonderful ministry and deserved our attention. So we're going to talk about that in just a few minutes when we have them on. But before that we have lots to talk about during shameless plug time. First and foremost, I want to welcome our new sponsor, the Geico Office at Concord Mills is now a proud community sponsor of Cabarrus Magazine. And with that comes a sponsorship of this program. And we thank Anthony and his team out there for doing such a great job and keeping people insured and safe and, and now they're supporting Cabarrus Magazine, so we appreciate them. They're already an advertiser in our magazine. And they've just loved us so much. They wanted to do more. And we're happy to accept that help. So thank you, Anthony and your team from Geico at the Concord Mills office, make sure you go by and see those guys. If you have any insurance needs, they will be sure to help you out. Secondly, and almost as importantly, the new edition of Cabarrus Magazine is online and in stands as of today, October 1. And we are so thrilled to bring this very special edition to you. Every two years, we go and interview all the political candidates from the local level all the way up to the senatorial level. And we ask them specific questions and print their answers verbatim. We don't edit except for brevity. And that's only if absolutely necessary. And even then we take great care in what we edit. But we find this is a great tool for people to learn who the candidates are and who they are actually voting for. A lot of times, of course, we know who we're going to vote for president or governor. But these other races, which frankly, are more important, because local level politics, if we've learned anything, during the shutdown, is that who we vote for on a local level directly impacts our life, way more than on a federal or even state level. So make sure that you are knowledgeable when you You're going into that voting booth and we are here to help you we do not endorse any political candidates. Everything that you see from their answers is written by them. We have not editorialized it at all, so you can trust this as a viable resource for you to use when you enter that voting booth on November 3, or before or mail it in, or whatever you're doing. Make sure that you do not vote before you read this month's issue of Cabarrus Magazine. And thirdly, I announced this a few weeks ago, but I was a little bit premature. We are now available on amazon music. So if you have an Alexa Echo, whatever, all you have to do is say Alexa, play Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine podcast, it'll pull it right up and play you the latest episode. It is so cool to be on amazon music and I am thrilled to bring that to you. So I think I've covered enough and that is today's shameless plug time. When we return Kathy Lista from The Open Door House, we'll be right here on the program to talk about this wonderful ministry. You do not want to miss this. Stick around.
And welcome back to the program we have on the line with us now Kathy Lista. She is with The Open Door House in Harrisburg. This is a great new program for foster children. And I wanted Kathy to come on to talk about this. They have some fundraising going on. And I wanted you guys to hear about it. Kathy, first of all, thanks for being on Up Front today with us.
Kathy Lista 08:30
Hey, Jason, thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here.
Jason Huddle 08:33
Absolutely, so tell us what is The Open Door House first of all?
Kathy Lista 08:37
So The Open Door House is a transitional housing program for youth who have aged out of foster care. So youth who are 18 to 21 that are coming out of the foster care system that don't have a place to live or to go. And we provide safe, stable and supportive housing and services for them.
Tell me why this is a need, as I understand it, foster kids that age out of the program. At some point they they're basically on their own right. And this statistically they end up on the streets or on drugs, is that pretty accurate?
Kathy Lista 09:12
Yeah, that is, you know, in our country in the US, up to 25,000 kids age out of foster care every year. And of that almost 25,000, 20% become instantly homelesa. Over 50% at some point before the age or by the age of 25 will experienced at least one night of homelessness. So I mean, if you think about yourself at 18 on I think about myself at 18 if I was suddenly you know 18, okay, you're on your own I would have failed miserably. And and I know, you know that's that's probably true for most people.
Jason Huddle 09:48
Now, what is the age that kids age out in North Carolina? Is it 18 or 21?
Kathy Lista 09:54
It's it's 18. But they can choose to stay in what's called the Voluntary Placement Assistance Program. And they can stay in that program till they're 21. So the options there is, if they're in a foster family that can keep them that, you know, they have a great relationship and want to keep them. They could stay with that foster family. Or if for some reason that's not working out, or if they're in a group home, they leave, and they have to have an approved housing situation. So possibly college, an apartment of their own or roommates, and then they can stay in the foster care system and they get a $620 a month stipend from foster care, and then they still get all their benefits.
Jason Huddle 10:35
The kids get this.
Kathy Lista 10:36
The kids get that that statement, yes. But as we all know, $620 doesn't go very far.
Jason Huddle 10:42
No, it does not certainly does not. Now, let me ask you this, what put this on your heart to start the house.
Kathy Lista 10:50
This started in 2015. I was working for Bassett furniture, I was a regional visual manager. And I was invited to go be a part of a service project in Palm Beach, Florida. We had a we had three stores in Florida and our Palm Beach Florida store was established, we partnered with an organization called place of hope. And they had a campus called Villages of Hope, which is transitional housing for kids who aged out of foster care. And we furnished and decorated an apartment for two young women. And that was the very first time I had heard the term aged out. That was the first time I had learned about what happens to kids when they turn 18. And there's nowhere to go. At the time, my own children were 17 and 20. And the entire time I was there, I couldn't stop thinking about them. What would they have done? If they were in foster care? And they had nowhere to go? And they turned 18 or they turn 19. And they didn't have a family of their own? This would be them.
Jason Huddle 11:48
Yeah, that's incredible. My two oldest are 21 and 17. And I can't imagine them just being on their own suddenly, overnight. It's a bad thought.
Kathy Lista 11:56
Yeah, yeah. So it it stayed with me. I came back to Charlotte. I live in Harrisburg, and I looked for a similar organization so I could donate my design services. You know, one of my passions like a God given talent and gift for me is I love to create comfortable, nice rooms for my family. I like to create just that that environment. And I wanted to do that for some kids. And I couldn't find anything. There's absolutely no transitional housing programs in Cabarrus County. So after a couple of years of talking to some folks in at the Department of Health and Human Services and making some relationships there, and a lot of a lot of thinking a lot of praying, I decided I felt like I was being called to start my own nonprofit. So in 2017, October of 2017, two years to the date, almost of that service project, we became a 501C3.
Jason Huddle 12:55
So how long have you been open then?
Kathy Lista 12:56
I stayed at my job. I stay with facet. After I got the 501C3, and I was there for another year. So I resigned from my job that September of 2018. And then on December 1 of 2018. I was done at Bassett and I was The Open Door House. I was The Open Door House. So it was literally okay, what do I do now? So that was um, it's been a very interesting journey.
Jason Huddle 13:24
Do you have young adult staying with you now?
Kathy Lista 13:27
Not yet, January of this year? I know this has been 2020 has not been a wonderful year. Oh, it has been, you know, economically devastating to some folks. There's you know, a lot of folks, you know, there's folks that have lost their lives. So I don't want to make light of what 20 and 20 has been for most people.
Jason Huddle 13:47
Kathy Lista 13:47
Well, for us. It has been the most incredible year. And there's a church in Concord, downtown Concord called Impact Church International. And they have this house on Spring Street and they gifted us the use of this house. So that is where we are right now. We have been working on renovations. You know, I started I got in here probably February, March or actually February, I started doing a little painting and then COVID happened. All of my plans for all of our plans for fundraising kind of got you know, the rug pulled out from under us. So we really just started getting back in here in May. And just really getting going with painting in every single room in this house needed to be either painted all the lighting had to be redone. There's a lot of renovations happening.
Jason Huddle 14:38
How many rooms did you say or did you say?
Kathy Lista 14:40
We have, there are four bedrooms, we will have six young women. This house does come with a lady who already lives here. She's almost going to be like a built in house mom, she doesn't work for us. She's not going to have any responsibilities, but she does live here. She works remotely from her job and she is actually going to be an incredible gift and resource for the girls, but we're going to start with two young women. We're hoping to have our doors open by November. And we are in the process of starting to scout for a case coordinator who will be handling the cases for the young women.
Jason Huddle 15:12
So this is going to be exclusively for young women, there will be no males in the house.
Kathy Lista 15:18
Not in this house. We are going to be looking at the goal of 2021 is to have a house for young men as well.
Jason Huddle 15:25
Well, I have to throw it to break Kathy but when we come back, I want to talk about some fundraising opportunities. And also you'll be able to tell people how they can get involved with the open door house if they want to. Is that cool?
Kathy Lista 15:37
Jason Huddle 15:38
All right, you guys stick around. We will be back right after these messages from our sponsors, stay tuned.
And welcome back to the program. We have with us today, Kathy Lista. She is with The Open Door House in Concord. I said Harrisburg at the beginning of the program, but it's actually in Concord. My apologies Kathy, before the break, we were talking about the house and the fact that it's going to house women. She's looking for a place for young adult men to be able to stay transitional housing for foster care students that are aging out. Kathy, you guys are just starting to do some fundraising. I think you started an auction this week. Tell us about that.
Kathy Lista 17:31
Yes, we have a silent virtual auction that started it opened up Tuesday morning at 8am. It's going to run through Friday, October 9 and close out at 6pm. It's an affordable auction, the highest price item is $700. And I wanted it to be something that will not only obviously raise money, our goal is 18,500. But I wanted it to be something that everybody, whatever your budget is can engage in and be a part of and just have fun with. So we've gotten the most incredible donations from local businesses in the community and individuals who've been part of the open door house. So we're just we're really thankful we have a couple weekend getaways in Myrtle Beach. We have botox sessions, leather, custom made leather bag, a Yeti cooler, I mean some really fun stuff. So if anybody wants to check it out, we are on you can go to events dot hand bid h a n d b i d dot com. There is a link also in our website. It's The Open Door House.org. O R G. So there's a link there as well.
And for those of you that are driving right now couldn't write that down. Don't worry, we will put it in our show notes for you guys to check out later. Kathy, are you guys looking for volunteers as well? And if so, what kind of qualifications do they need?
Kathy Lista 18:57
Yeah, we will, you know, we're going to be opening that whole process up right now our volunteers have been, you know, in the form of physical labor. And you know, we've been we had some yard sales and that sort of thing. But we will be looking for volunteers and mentors for our young ladies, we're going to be looking for folks who want to come in and teach a cooking class or talk about financial stability, there's going to be all sorts of opportunities. And you know, that's going to open up even more if they're interested. Again, if they want to go to our website,The Open Door House.org there's a direct link to click on for volunteer opportunities, and it'll just shoot an email directly to me. And then as our volunteer program opens up and develops, I can get back with people and give them further information.
Jason Huddle 19:39
Wonderful, so Kathy, do you have foster children yourself?
Kathy Lista 19:43
I don't actually have a foster child. I do have we now call him our bonus son. In May, while we were sitting here working on the house, I got an email from a local pastor in Charlotte. And there was a young man who was living behind his church. He's 18, and he's got he's got one heck of a story. He was adopted when he was six. It wasn't a how do I put it? It wasn't the best home environment, let me just say that he left when he was 17. He lived with some friends for a little bit. They moved, he was not invited to go with them. And then found himself couchsurfing. And then he became homeless. Very long story short, my husband and I met him. Because we didn't have a program. We didn't have a house for guys. There weren't that many opportunities for him. So we met him, gave him the option. I said, do you want us to help you find a place to live? And we'll help you, you know, sort through this? Or do you want to live with a family, he was very open to living with a family. Our kids met him two days later. And he has now been a part of our family for almost five months. He just turned 19. At the end of August. He is in barber school. He is working at Chick Fil A, and he is a joy, a total joy.
Jason Huddle 20:58
I love to hear stories like that. I mean, it makes our heart happy.
Kathy Lista 21:01
Yeah, he was definitely. I told him that, you know, God put him at behind that church for a reason. And you know, we're not even that well known. I mean, we're not even open yet for that pastor to have heard our name, they opened our house and reached out. I mean, I really feel it was all a God thing I said to him, I said, You know, I think we I was always meant to be your mom. And you were always meant to be my kid. So he's just, he's wonderful. So he's a great kid. And there's so many more out there, like him with that story. So eventually, our program won't just be kids who've aged out of foster care, we really want to open it up to kids like our son now who, you know, was adopted, and it didn't work out. And then he found himself homeless.
And unfortunately, that story is not that uncommon. I know from being involved with the foster system, we just adopted our foster daughter, and hearing stories from other foster parents. But this happens quite frequently, even after adoption, that things that the adoption fails. Yeah, for one reason or another sometimes it's they just didn't know what they were getting into. They weren't prepared one of the big things that I've seen that has happened. My wife and I were actually just discussing this last night, the reason why some adoptions fail, or some foster kids get passed around from house to house is because somebody had said to us, well, it's because the parents aren't prepared for the trauma that these children have. And you can't discipline foster kids or even adoptive kids, you can't really discipline the same way you would your normal kids, because of some of the things that they've experienced, you have to change that up a little bit. But our point is, nobody can be prepared for some of the trauma that these kids have endured. But they don't have the help that they need. They don't have the resources that they need. And that's one of the things that I know the state is working on, especially for post adoptive care. But also, I wanted to ask you as far as The Open Door, because these children have endured so much trauma, your son, who was adopted, he thought he was in the clear, right? And then all of a sudden, it didn't work out. Are there any plans to have counselors or people like that around for these children to talk to and get some help that they need?
Kathy Lista 23:29
Absolutely, I mean, he our son does weekly therapy. That was one of my first questions when we met him was, are you open to therapy? And he said, absolutely, I want to do therapy. It's it's a necessity. So we are already hooked up with Genesis a new beginning. They do some wonderful work. There's other great there's a cardinal group, just you know, I'm also a community partner for DSS in Cabarrus. County. So I sit in on permanency planning, review meetings. So you know, I've been a part of that group now for almost two years. So just knowing the protocol and knowing how important therapy is it will absolutely be part of what we do. I mean, it has to be mind body, spirit for therapy and healing. And you got you can't just look at one part of the person, you've got to look at the whole. In one thing I just want to point out to about these, these kids that are in foster care, you know, people need to remember that 99% of the time that kid is in foster care at no fault of their own. They did nothing to be in that situation, really. And these kids are resilient. They're warriors, they're over overcomers You know, one of the things that was interesting one, you know, I'll call my son, Jay. When Jay and I were talking when he first came to live with us, I think he'd been with us for like a week. We were watching Netflix and this really cool Chef's Table documentary. And it was about traveling, I said, Jay, you know, where did you ever wanted to travel? And he looked at me with a blank look and he's like, I've never thought about it. When you are in survival mode every day of your life, you cannot think about dreams, goals, travel, it's just part you are just surviving every day.
Jason Huddle 25:13
Your thinking about where your next meal is gonna come from.
Kathy Lista 25:15
Absolutely, they're in fight or flight mode every day. Can you imagine being like that every minute of the day not knowing what's coming up next.
Jason Huddle 25:22
Kathy Lista 25:23
So something as simple as he'd never seen a waterfall and he'd never been to the mountains. We live two hours from the mountains, so we went to the mountain we went to Lindell falls that weekend. And it was the best, and now he's like, I want to be a barber. He's in barber school, I mean, it's just watch him blossom into this incredible young man, I'll tell you what, when you open your house to to one of these kids, it is more of a gift for you hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows. No, but parenting my own kids, let me tell you what is hello, It is no picnic in the park. But man, there's nothing more worthwhile. And I'm just I can't say enough about this kid. He is I know he just makes my heart happy, so.
Jason Huddle 26:08
Well, that is an awesome story. And I hope that when you guys get open, we can hear more stories like that.
Kathy Lista 26:15
Jason Huddle 26:16
Was young adults are finding their way in life and getting an opportunity launchpad.
Kathy Lista 26:24
You know, I was thinking about, you know, what? I was listening to another podcast earlier, I listened to 8 million different podcasts and was talking about mission. You know, what is the purpose of this? You know, besides housing, the end of the day, the reason I did this is, you know, besides making a pretty house for somebody, is I want to remove aloneness for these kids. And I want them to know that somebody has their back. Period. That's it. That's at the end of the day. We because we all need that. You know, we all no one wants to be alone. Everybody wants to know they have somebody to lean on. And that's it. It's as simple as that.
Jason Huddle 27:03
Absolutely. Kathy, we are at a time. I wish we could talk longer. But let me just give you the opportunity real quick. How long is that auction? Live and give us the website one more time?
Kathy Lista 27:14
Absolutely. That auction goes through October 9, it's Friday, October 9, and it is events dot hand bid dot com. And you just search for The Open Door House in the search bar and you'll find our auctions called finish the house.
Jason Huddle 27:31
And it's The Open Door House dot org is your main website, correct?
Kathy Lista 27:34
Yes. And we're also on Instagram and Facebook. Just look for The Open Door House and we`ll pop up.
Jason Huddle 27:40
Great stuff. Kathy Lista with The Open Door House. Thank you so much for your service to these young adults and to our community. And we hope to hear some great stories here in the future.
Kathy Lista 27:52
Thanks, Jason. Thanks for having me.
Jason Huddle 27:54
All right, you guys. Stay tuned, we'll be right back to wrap up the program in just a moment.
I want to thank Kathy Lista for being on the program once again today. I really appreciate her bringing to light this new ministry in the community and I urge you if you have a heart for that kind of thing to get involved. I'm sure she's going to need the help. And she mentioned that she was looking for a house for young adult males to live in as well. So if you know of a house or can help in that area, I'm sure she would love to have it. The most important thing that we need to realize is that some people have said to me I could never do that I could never foster I could never adopt I get it. Not everybody is cut out for it. But here's the thing. These kids are all our kids. You've heard the phrase it takes a village to raise a child. We are the village we are fortunate enough to have a group of friends around us that are helping us raise our adopted daughter and when she was our foster daughter, they were helping us in that respect, too. But we need to take responsibility for these children. As Kathy pointed out, these children are not in this situation because of their choosing. They are in this situation because somebody else made poor choices. And they are feeling the repercussions of that. So, I urge you seek out some kind of way that you can help these children even if it's indirectly several months ago, we had on the folks from the overflow ministry out of Providence Baptist in Harrisburg. They help provide foster families with basic needs that many kids when they come into a foster home, they have the clothes on their back, maybe a garbage bag full of whatever they have. And that's it , that's not an exaggeration. I'm not trying to play on your heartstrings. This is the truth, so these ministries need all the help they can get. And I urge you to seek those out. That is all the time we have for this week. You have been listening to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group. It is hosted and produced by yours truly Jason Huddle and it is sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Geico Concord Mills Office, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. Please remember to support those that support us. Until next week, find a kid to help.