Every young person deserves to go through life knowing they have care and support from someone they can trust. The problem? Over 400,000 youth are in the foster care system in the United States, and over 17% of those will age out of the system before finding lasting familial support. Many youths are instantly homeless.
Raise the Future was founded in 1983 to reduce those numbers. The goal is to connect youth in foster care with adults who can provide stability and shelter, forming positive connections and increasing the likelihood of a brighter future. To date, more than 10,000 youths in foster care have been placed into loving families with support from Raise the Future.
For 40 years, local news station CBS News Colorado has partnered with Raise the Future, sharing the stories of Colorado foster children in need of family permanency. Once a week, the program “Wednesday’s Child” connects youth in foster care with viewers across the state. Since its inception, the immense impact of the program has expanded its reach nationwide.
CBS News Anchor Mekialaya White has hosted “Wednesday’s Child” since May 2021. “These are the most important stories I tell as a journalist. Hands down,” White said. The initial mission was to find homes for older children, sibling groups, and children with physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges. These groups are often overlooked in the foster care system, along with children of color. “‘Wednesday’s Child’ started in October of 1981 with the story of 14-year-old April, who lived in a residential treatment center and wanted a home and family of her own,” White explained.
Now, the program will often take children to activities they enjoy, “like going to an arcade, or learning how to bake cakes, or we’ve even spent time with former NFL players tossing a ball around at Empower Field at Mile High. It runs the gamut,” White said. “Seeing each of them light up doing an activity they’re passionate about and feeling special does wonders for my heart.”
From the very beginning, the program worked. Many of the youth featured are ultimately adopted. But Raise the Future doesn’t stop there. Connecting youth with permanent families is step one, but these children often need more support than a parent can provide alone. Raise the Future provides Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) classes, coaching, specialized trainings, professional consultation and personalized help to find local resources.
These resources can include adoption competent mental health support, a vital component to positive change for many youths. “Unfortunately, many of these kids don’t hear words of affirmation and support in their journey to permanency, instead things that are entirely untrue: that they are not worth it, or that they don’t matter,” White explained. “Wednesday’s Child” also hopes to play a part in brightening these youths’ mindset on their journey to permanency. White shared, “Through doing these segments, we can help them learn the opposite. They’re loved, they’re deserving, and they will excel in life. It’s an immense honor to have a part in that.”