Hillcrest transitional housing helping foster kids - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hillcrest transitional housing helping foster kids

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Thousands of children in Iowa are a part of various foster programs. And growing up without a family can be difficult.

But what happens when children turn 18 and phase out of a group foster home? Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque is giving kids a chance to live independently.

17 year old Kenny has just settled in to his new apartment. After living in a Hillcrest group foster home for the last year.

"It was a little lonely at first. But it's nice," said Kenny.

Less than a block away from the Hillcrest campus, Kenny is learning to live on his own. Thanks to the transition housing program.

"So this program gives them some independent living options. How to budget, how to grocery shop, with support which is needed for kids who are institutionalized or have lived in group homes for a long period of time," said John Bellini, director of residential education at Hillcrest.

After a year in a group home, Kenny was ready for the next step, but at 17 it was hard to find a landlord to rent from. In just a few months Kenny turns 18 and will graduate from high school.

"Working on getting a job. That's the main focus right now cause you need that to function," said Kenny.

Working closely with a supervisor Kenny is learning how to budget, cook, manage his time, and yes, even set the thermostat in his apartment.

"It'll help a lot after I graduate and get into college because I'll know more of what I need to do. Where as other people might not know," said Kenny.

Bellini says despite state wide budget cuts, including a five percent cut to their transitional housing program, they're making sure kids like Kenny aren't forgotten.

"We need to find ways to transition kids into a less structured environment," said Bellini.

A less structure environment that still keeps them connects to a community that cares.

"Can still call the group home and see some of the people and can slowly break away from that as well," said Bellini.

Kenny graduates in May. He says he plans to attend cosmetology school in Iowa City. Where he'll continue to have resources to help him live independently.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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