When people ask Pam Parish how many children she has, her answer catches them off guard.
“We have eight girls. One biological daughter and seven we adopted.
“Our first [daughter adopted] was adopted out of foster care when she was 11. Then we adopted a 15 year old,” Pam said. “But the stories kept coming – we became aware of more girls needing a family and one after another they became part of our life and our family. From homelessness, trafficking, ageing out of foster care – it’s like God brought every dynamic of youth into our own personal family and now they call us Mom and Dad.”
Those experiences also pushed Pam to start researching what really happens to kids when they turn 18 and age out of foster care.
“The statistics were just astounding. So many of them would end up in prison or pregnant – and losing their own kids into foster care as well because they didn’t have support systems,” she said.
“I thought, there has to be a better way. And then our pastor challenged my husband and I to pray about whether God was calling us into something more than what He was doing in our family. And that’s where Connection Homes started, out of a season of prayer.”
Pam launched Connections Homes in 2014 with the idea that 18 year olds need family, too.
“I decided we could match kids who are aging out of foster care, who are homeless and without family, to mentoring families who would commit to being part of their life – for life,” she said. “And now that’s what we do every day!”
Connections Homes works with independent living programs, transitional living programs, DFCS, shelters and more to match kids without healthy support systems to people from churches and the community at large.
“These are people stepping up and saying “I’d like to be part of a young person’s life – to help them become a success and not a statistic,’” Pam said.
Did you know?
70% trafficking victims report a history of foster care.
87% of boys aging out will spend some time in jail, mostly for survival crimes.
71% of girls who age out of foster care will find themselves pregnant in the first year.
97% of youth who age out of foster care without a safe, stable support system will find themselves in chronic poverty, or worse.
In 2020, Connections Homes became a fundholder at the Community Foundation.
“I’ve wanted to open a fund at the Community Foundation for a while because, for any nonprofit, the stability of having a reserve and having funds that are secured in another account with an organization you get so much benefit from, like the Community Foundation, is just something that’s a good next growth step,” Pam said. “For example, we got a stock donation and weren’t equipped to facilitate that. But as a fundholder, the Community Foundation easily facilitated the transfer for us on our behalf.
“So I think it’s important for other nonprofits to know that when things like that come in, like the stock donation, we didn’t have to have the answers because the Community Foundation did. Margaret and Randy just took care of it for us. That was a huge benefit.
“There are so many plates we have to carry as nonprofit leaders that it’s always helpful to have an organization in your corner to help handle things you’re not equipped to deal with. Being able to call Randy, or Britt or Margaret and have them help you and even provide education on how to write grants and so much more is invaluable.”
For Pam, helping youth through Connections Homes is a definite calling.
“Many people end up in these cycles of homelessness and poverty because they don’t have someone in their corner who is willing to walk alongside them, to meet them in moments of crisis, to teach them the things they don’t know – even things like how to get a driver’s license or a photo ID,” she said. “That’s what made all of us who we are today – having people like that in our lives. And these kids, especially these kids who, through no fault of their own are homeless or aging out of foster care without a family, they need people like that in their life. And I think we, as a society, owe that to help – to be there, to step up and to step into their story.”
How can you help? Along with financial donations, Connections Homes is looking for more mentoring families. They also need donations of career clothing so that the youth they serve can be professionally dressed for job interviews. Discover more at connectionshomes.org