VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Studies show 20 percent of children in the foster care become homeless as soon as they age out of the system.
That number doubles within the first 18 months.
Virginia Beach non-profit Connect With a Wish aims to fight that statistic with an event on February 20.
"You're One of a Kind" is free and open to local foster youth ages 14 and up. It will feature food and prizes, but most importantly connect them with resources to hopefully lead to a successful transition into adulthood and independent living.
In Virginia, foster children age out of the program at 21, but can choose to live independently at 18.
The event is in support of the organization's Connect to Careers program which began working with local teens and young adults in the foster system last year. Featured speaker, Gaelin Elmore, is a former NFL player who grew up in the Illinois foster system.
"There's just so much, like, trauma and so many different things that can start to weigh on you by the time you are 18, by the time you are aging out. The world looks at you and doesn't care and they don't realize the weight that you're carrying around," Elmore told News 3 over Zoom.
Organizers at Connect With a Wish say any time children in foster care can hear from someone who transitioned into adulthood successfully, it's inspiring.
"It really opens up the youth's perspectives. They really come out of their shells. They're like, 'Okay, this person has done it. I can do it,'" said Alison Fagan, who heads the Connect to Careers program.
Fagan tells News 3 she's hoping to meet and get information on as many as 100 local teens in the foster system at the event so she can begin working with them.
"You're One of a Kind" is open to foster youth in all seven Hampton Roads cities and runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Social workers and area politicians have also been invited.
Families can RSVP by calling 757-337-2657 or 757-337-5051, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.