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Transition center will give support to foster youth

By EMILY GUEVARA , The Enterprise

(BEAUMONT, Texas) — On Thursday afternoon, Shaneka Guidry-Odom and her friends painted the walls of a two-bedroom house a pear-green shade.

Although it was a residence at one time, the structure now has a new life as the F.Y.I. Center, which stands for Fostering Youth Independence.

Located at 675 East Virginia, it will serve as a sort of home/resource environment for former and current foster children.

"This is the support system," said Guidry-Odom, 25, a former foster child who works as the Child Protective Services youth specialist. "This is the place they can come to get the benefits they need."

Buckner Children and Family Services will open the transition center adjacent to the Lamar University campus in April.

It will serve young people ages 16-25 using a $300,000 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Transition services previously were available to a more limited group of foster youth, ages 17-21.

Buckner hopes to have six computer stations set up in a large room at the back of the house. The Samaritan Counseling Center, the Texas Workforce Center, Lamar University and a local doctor will offer their services during the week, said Greg Eubanks, Beaumont's Children and Family Services director.

Young adults will be able to ask questions about money management, financial aid, college applications and job placement, said Shari Pulliam Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman.

A full kitchen and laundry room could provide a home-away-from-home for nearby students, Eubanks said.

Beaumont was one of three Texas cities to receive the grant money, split over a two-year period. El Paso and Belton were the other two.

The success of eight transition centers statewide prompted the Texas Workforce Commission to look at where they could expand, Eubanks said.

"They're getting kids (connected) with the resources they need," Eubanks said.
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Guidry-Odom, who graduated from Central High School in 2001, said the Transitioning to Responsible Adult Independent Living (TRAIL) program for 17- to 21-year-olds helped her in dealing with issues of transportation and rent assistance when she started living on her own. She said the expansion of these services to those beyond 21 is great.

"Normally it does take longer than age 21 for most young people," said Guidry-Odom, 25.

Kevin Garriga, TRAIL program manager, said he initially was a little uncertain about the program. But now, he's all for it.

"Most of them, when they're 20½, they realize, 'we have to get it together,'" Garriga said "(This is) helping them to better plan for their future."