The Colarelli family has a giving heart for foster kids. And a focus on helping them toward a future when they leave the system that failed them.
Nick Colarelli, whose early background had been in clinical psychology and organizational psychology, could only cringe, knowing that "every time a foster child moves from place to place they lose a piece of themselves. We know kids who have had 12 placements."
Even worse, when they age out of the foster care system at 18, they're out. "Half will be homeless or unemployed and the girls are at risk of becoming pregnant," he noted. Many end up in the criminal justice system.
For Colarelli and his daughter Dr. Angela Carron, who heads Fostering Hope, it is all about family, something most foster kids have never had. "I had never felt unloved or unwanted growing up. It isn't the same for the foster kids," Nick said.
Today Colarelli is the head of the Fostering Hope Foundation (fosteringhopefoundation.org), grown out of their Colarelli Family Foundation, where grass-roots volunteer teams provide extended support for foster families and are there for emancipated foster children from ages 18 to 25. "When kids get out of the system they're lost, and now, with business partners, we're getting them into the workforce and into college or training. These kids still need love, they need stability, they need someone to just be there for them." And, he said to laughter, "they need cars to get to work." They have added a transitional housing element to the program as well.
Fostering Hope, which explained its program at an Oct. 14 luncheon at The Pinery, dates back to work with the county's Department of Human Services and a faith-community service provider, Faith Partners. Teams from churches were mentors for families going from welfare into the workforce. In 2008 the Colarelli foundation operated the program, using faith-based teams to support foster families and now to work with aged-out youth. A second Fostering Hope program is in place in Milwaukee.
Locally, an estimated 10-20 more support teams are needed, said the Colarellis. There have been 40 teams in place with 530 volunteers from 37 churches. Seventeen businesses have signed on to help kids going into the work world, said Nick. Three of those young people were guests at the luncheon. "Imagine what it must feel like to them to be sitting in the room with adults who wanted to hear their story," said Nick.
It's all under the motto: "Where there is help, there is hope. Where there is hope, there is future."