Better Together Toledo
Supporting young adults leaving foster care
BTT brings together small groups of 6-8 trained volunteers who commit for at least one year to offer consistent, healthy, enduring relationships to young adults aging out of foster care. These small groups meet weekly over dinner to provide encouragement, support, and social-emotional companionship to foster-care alums who are ready to plan their next steps toward creating stable, sustainable, thriving young adulthoods.
Using a licensed, evidence-based curriculum, Better Together Toledo trains all volunteers. We’ll show you how. Our volunteers keep their promises, show up when they say they will, and consciously work to prove to their foster alums that they can always – always – count on their group.
Our small groups meet weekly over dinner to provide encouragement, support, and social-emotional companionship to foster-care alums who are ready to plan their next steps toward creating stable, sustainable, thriving young adulthoods. All donations go 100% for this purpose.
Want to help?
Better Together Toledo offers consistent support to foster alums.
Curious how YOU could help change lives, one week at a time?
Here are some FAQs:
WHY FOSTER ALUMS?
Few of us would hand our own 18-year-old children the keys to their lives, then wave goodbye. Foster alums are no different. They also — especially — need caring guidance and consistent support. Statistics tell us foster alums are significantly more likely than other young adults to become homeless, fall into poverty, drop out of school, become parents, go to jail, fall victim to sex trafficking, and experience mental health and substance abuse issues.
Foster alums need — as we all do — support, acceptance, and guidance. As a volunteer with Better Together Toledo, you can offer all that and more within the context of strong, consistent relationship.
WHOA! CAN I DO ALL THAT MYSELF?
You don’t have to. That’s the beauty of Better Together Toledo. BTT brings together small groups of volunteers who commit to wrapping arms around one foster alum. You’ll join with five to seven other volunteers, people like you who want to extend a hand to a young person.
WHAT EXACTLY AM I COMMITTING TO...?
Your group will meet once a week for one year. (Yes, we know: people get sick, have family emergencies, take vacations. We recognize life happens.)
Your group will meet over meals and shared activities. (The goal is to create a quasi-family environment. Casual dinner conversation is a time-honored way to become a cohesive, functioning group.)
Your group will decide for itself when and where to meet. (BTT is consensus- based. Groups can meet anywhere from members’ homes, church basements, library meeting rooms, etc.)
Your group is NOT here to fix your foster alum’s problems, provide money, or direct their life. (BTT offers no services. We offer relationships. Your main task is simply to be there, week after week. Listen, offer acceptance and encouragement, help the young person identify goals and brainstorm ways to reach them. The group is also expected to use its collective social capital to offer the foster alum helpful opportunities – the same way we’d make connections for our own children, nieces and nephews, and friends.)
... AND HOW EXACTLY CAN I HELP?
We’ll show you how. Better Together Toledo trains all volunteers. We use a licensed, evidence-based curriculum from the national nonprofit The Open Table to build healthy relationships – with your foster alum, and within the overall group.
This research-driven training reinforces the art of active listening; helps make volunteers savvier about navigating group dynamics; helps them better understand the impact of childhood trauma; helps volunteers identify their own implicit biases (we all have them), and ward off judgmental and/or stereotypical thinking.
All this takes place within the first eight weeks of your volunteer commitment, before you meet your foster alum. Training occurs once a week, lasting about two hours, depending on that week’s curriculum. Training is a shared group experience, which gives everyone a jump on getting acquainted and functioning as a group.
SOUNDS GOOD, BUT I’M NOT QUITE SURE...
Great! That indicates you’re appropriately thoughtful in considering this serious commitment. Foster children typically suffer repeated broken promises, and often find it very difficult to trust people. They need and deserve consistency and demonstrable commitment.
Our volunteers keep their promises, show up when they say they will, and consciously work to prove to their foster alums that they can always – always – count on their group.
Such a commitment is a major decision, and we thank you for giving it the serious thought it deserves. You are welcome to undergo training, which will give you a more detailed sense of how BTT works, then decide afterward whether to proceed. And we always invite you to get in touch any time – we’re happy to talk with prospective volunteers and answer questions.
Visit Us on Facebook
Our FaceBook page is a place we keep you up to date on current events and activity. You can check us out there or just come back to the website to view our direct FB feed.
The Better Together Toledo Advisory Board convened in the summer of 2018.
Members have been generous with their time, wisdom, and guidance as we work to build a thriving, sustainable initiative for young adults leaving foster care.
Judge Denise Cubbon
Administrative Judge, Lucas County Juvenile Court
Roberta de Boer Durham
Better Together Toledo Founder/Director
Executive Director, Toledo-Lucas Co. Homeless Board
President/CEO YWCA of NW Ohio
Dr. Pam Oatis
MD, Mercy Health System
Executive Director, Lucas County Children Services
Manager, External/Gov Affairs, Toledo-Lucas Co. Public Library
Rev. Dr. Lisa Tucker-Gray
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church
Legal Support Coordinator, LCCS
Data Journalist, The Center for Michigan Bridge Magazine
Tina Skeldon Wozniak
President, Lucas County Board of Commissioners
Tina Skeldon Wonzniak, Advisory Board member and President, Lucas Co. Board of Commissioners:
“Better Together Toledo is an innovative approach to caring for some of the least visible, most vulnerable people among us. Young adults exiting foster care need to know our community stands behind them – not just in theory, but in action. BTT drills down, providing enduring support to Lucas County foster alums from volunteers who commit to help young adults reach educational, vocational, and life goals. Our common belief is that the comfort and acceptance found in lasting relationships is fundamental for thriving, prosperous lives. The components of these relationships — which everyone needs — are care, connection, and stability. Some community initiatives come and go. This one is here to stay. There was a hole in our system, but Better Together Toledo fills that void. Please join me in helping foster children venture into adulthood with the necessary healthy relationships to provide the long-term support they need.”
Rachel Gagnon, Advisory Board member and Executive Director, Toledo-Lucas Co. Homeless Board:
“Statistics tell us the undeniable truth: Aging out of foster care is too often a pipeline not only to homelessness, but to under/unemployment, low educational attainment, incarceration, substance abuse, and untreated mental-health issues.
But here in Lucas County, Better Together Toledo works directly to change those statistics. BTT offers more than just mentorship; it provides relationship. Research confirms in our head what we already know in our hearts — enduring, deep connection and acceptance are critical for young people to thrive.
BTT brings groups of trained volunteers to the dinner table every week, where they meet with their foster alum to provide the support and encouragement that every young person deserves.
I invite all of you to help us wrap arms around our community’s foster alums through your support of Better Together Toledo. Together, we can change lives.”
Dave Hackenberg, retired sports columnist, The (Toledo) Blade:
“Better Together Toledo will surprise you, should you elect to take a seat at the table. You’ll be surprised by how much you like your foster grad. You’ll be surprised how quickly your fellow volunteers become good friends. You’ll be surprised how much you look forward to weekly dinners. And you’ll be surprised, perhaps, by your willingness to do more. Check out BTT. Consider volunteering. You might surprise yourself”
Get In Touch
Please feel free to contact us for more information or with any questions you may have.