By Susie Timm
Amber Lepur survived a devastating childhood marked by abuse and abandonment and fell into the state’s foster care system as a teenager. Adrift without any career or education goals, she entered the Keys to Success program, developed by the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFCF) last summer.
Through the program, Lepur found a job at a Scottsdale law firm and enrolled in Gateway Community College. Now, the Camelback High School graduate has big dreams for the future.
Lepur’s story is a common one. More than 800 young men and women will turn 18 and age out of foster care in Arizona this year. Without added support to help them find jobs or pursue their education, far too many fall through the cracks. But there is a lifeline—the Keys to Success program.
The pilot program already has changed the lives of a dozen young men and women, who completed the program over the summer and are working, volunteering and planning for the future.
For youth in foster care, the future is not statistically bright, said Kris Jacober, director of the Phoenix-based AFFCF.
“As youth in foster care approach the age of 18, they must make the transition to adulthood without family relationships to support them, and with few financial resources,” Jacober said. “The Keys to Success program is our way of bridging the gap and helping these youth have the best possible start when they leave foster care.”
AFFCF hopes to grow the Keys to Success program, to serve more young adults like Lepur. The organization, which receives no state funding, currently is seeking funding for the program. All Arizona taxpayers can qualify for a tax credit by making a contribution to AFFCF by Dec. 31. Contributions can be made in any amount, up to $400 for people filing single and $800 for couples filing jointly. For information, visit affcf.org or call 602-252-9445.