In 2007, LA Kings hockey player Luc Robitaille and his wife Stacia founded non-profit Echoes of Hope after discovering a vulnerable and sadly overlooked demographic in our society—hundreds of children aging out of foster care in America every year.
Aging out of foster care at 18
“When they turn 18,” Robitaille said, “the way the system works, the government says, ‘Here’s $2,500 dollars…and hope you’re life goes good.’ Half of them end up homeless.”
“They’re smart, so some of the kids find a way to get college grants. It seems like a lot of money, but after their first round of books, and an apartment with three other people, they drop a few classes and get a job. But it’s not enough. So they drop three more classes and get another job. After a few years they realize that it doesn’t make sense. So, out of those 3 to 4 percent that go to college, only 2 percent make it to graduation.”
College opportunities for at-risk youth
“We decided to really focus on youth at risk; kids that are willing to work hard. We take kids who are aging out of foster care in group homes and youth centers that are going to school, going to graduate, and want to go to college. Whenever a kid gets sent to us, we see them all the way through,” Robitaille said.
Echoes of Hope has five existing programs; Touching Lives, Building Futures, Chapters For Success, Voices of Hope, Be A Light, and Gifts Of Hope. Students are referred to Echoes of Hope by social workers or the DCFS, where they receive support such as rent, transportation, college textbooks, tuition, bus passes, housing, mentorship, and life coaching while attending school in Los Angeles. Hundreds more nationwide get help with laptops and college textbooks, some of the biggest expenses of going to school in the United States.
“All of us, to have any success in our lives, we’ve all had someone we could lean on. A lot of the kids aging out of foster care don’t have anything, and they think nobody cares,” said Robitaille. “Our message is clear: if they work hard, someone will give them a chance to succeed.”
Support for kids aging out of foster care
Echoes of Hope is looking for more grants, they’re growing their staff of volunteers, and raising their revenue goals. “If we put 50 kids through college this year, next year it should be 100,” Robitaille said. “When we ask them what they want to do when they grow up, they always say—I’d love to help kids like me! We know those are the right ones to help.”
Would you like to help out? Go to echoesofhope.org to find out more about donating, funding, gifting, speaking at an event, or volunteering your time.