‘As a young woman who has been in and out of the foster care system my whole life, I’ve had to face many challenging situations alone before my Fair Futures Coach Jaime changed my life entirely.’

Students head into a school in New York City

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Students head into school in New York City in February 2021.

As a young woman who has been in and out of the foster care system my whole life, I’ve had to face many challenging situations alone before my Fair Futures Coach Jaime changed my life entirely. Now, at 20 years old, is the first time I am able to say I have a support system of adults in my corner who truly care, accept, and love me, with my coach at the center.

Before I had access to a Fair Futures coach,  I was on my own to figure out how to move forward in life as a young adult. When I entered college at age 17, I soon found it difficult to learn remotely amidst the height of the pandemic while also trying to find stable housing and I ended up dropping out at the end of 2020. I had to take out deep, crippling student loans while juggling a full-time overnight job at a warehouse to afford my day-to-day expenses. Trying to navigate college and housing on my own as a teenager was nearly impossible. Since I wasn’t able to afford a place of my own, I couch surfed between friends’ places, but the living situation soon became precarious and I suffered many sleepless nights.

It wasn’t until I found Fair Futures that I felt like I was able to keep my head above water for once. Fair Futures is a proven model implemented at all 26 foster care agencies in New York City that provides 1:1 coaching, tutoring, and other supports to help young people like me who grew up in foster care successfully prepare for adulthood. Mayor Eric Adams recently baselined $30 million in funding for Fair Futures in the Fiscal Year 2023 city budget to bring the life-changing model to all young people in or who have left foster care, from middle school up to age 26. I have no doubt that this significant expansion will change the lives of thousands of young people in care like myself.

I’m incredibly grateful that I was introduced to the love, support, and sense of community that Fair Futures offers at the age of 20. As soon as the Fair Futures team found out about my housing, school, and employment situation, they, along with New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), jumped in to support me, helping me re-enter foster care, introducing me to my Coach Jaime and Tutor Mike, and connecting me to housing supports.

I instantly clicked with my Coach Jaime. We text every day, go to Dunkin Donuts to grab a coffee and glazed donuts, and she constantly checks in with me to see how I’m doing. Jaime has quickly become my rock, my biggest cheerleader, and most importantly, a trusted friend. From helping me transfer colleges and applying for scholarships, enrolling in a paid internship instead of working a dangerous overnight job, to helping me escape my precarious living situation and find shelter in a college dorm, Fair Futures and ACS have been with me every step of the way.

Though there was a point in my life where I thought I couldn’t do it, I hope to become a high school guidance counselor one day after graduating college so I can help other students in similar situations better navigate the stresses of high school and college—a goal which I now know I’m more than capable of doing. I am proud to have also recently received a national scholarship from The nsoro Educational Foundation’s Scholarship Program, which helps young adults who have aged out of the foster care system have the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

Fair Futures has restored my sense of hope in pursuing higher education and this goal without the burden of deep student loans and renewed my sense of safety and peace of mind through now having a safe job in the form of a paid internship and a stable and secure place to stay.

Fully funding Fair Futures is vital to ensuring New York City’s foster youth continue to have the support they need in order to grow into the young leaders our city needs. I can’t wait to see how our city reaps the benefits for generations to come.

Jaylen Fitzpatrick is a youth in New York City’s foster care system.