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A program in Northwest Arkansas assists young people who are “aging out” of foster care



Little Rock, Arkansas – Turning 18 can be difficult, but for those who are aging out of foster care and may not have someone to turn to for support, it can be even more difficult.

A brand-new initiative that was started in the river valley and in Northwest Arkansas aims to change that.

It is known as LifeSet. A specialist assists young individuals in adjusting to independent living. DeAnna Wilson, a Fort Smith resident, and 18-year-old, has already noticed a difference.

Two months ago, Wilson was without a house.

“If it wasn’t for them,” she said. “I would have never gotten off the streets.”

Nichole Harmon, a LifeSet Specialist, began assisting her when she enrolled in the program.

Harmon aided her in locating housing.

“They’ve been really helpful and I’m real thankful for them,” Wilson said about the LifeSet Program. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have my apartment.”

Wilson struggles to hold back tears as she considers how far she’s come. Every week, Harmon pays her a visit and spends approximately an hour talking with her. Wilson has benefited from her assistance with schoolwork, budgeting, and job applications.

“It’s helped me learn a lot of things that I need to know to start life,” Wilson said. “And know what’s ahead at life.”

On occasion, they’ll enjoy a pleasant winter day by laughing together and strolling through the park.

“I am real grateful for everything and every help I’ve gotten,” Wilson said. “They’ve been a blessing through the whole time I’ve met them.”

“It’s fun I like to just, I like to give people help that I wish I had as well,” Harmon said. “Because I think most of the time, it’s not that you don’t want to try, it’s that you don’t know how.”

Participants in the program commit to it for nine months. For its clients, LifeSet receives referrals from the Department of Human Services. To start the program in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley, Alisha Turner relocated to Arkansas.

“From our research, we found that this area was the area that had the most need,” she said. “There’s a lot of youth who were aging out of foster care, and just needed the extra assistance.”

They want to ensure that individuals like Wilson don’t fall between the gaps and that the transition to maturity need not be made in isolation.

“Most of the time I think all kids like me need this help,” Wilson said. “Because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be in the place I am now.”

Twenty young adults have participated in the LifeSet program for the past six months in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley. They want to extend into new areas of the state and assist more people.

Between the ages of 17 and 21, LifeSet instructs young individuals in independent living skills like money management, job search techniques, attending doctor visits or interviews, and assistance with the home search.