Volunteers Put Together ‘Emancipation Baskets’ for Teens Transitioning Out of Foster Care

SACRAMENTO -- Sometimes the littlest things can make the biggest difference in life. That's the goal behind United Way's spring drive.

Local residents donate everyday household items for the 260 or so foster youth that will be moving on to adulthood soon.

For 15 years, what are known as "emancipation baskets" have been prepared locally by the United Way's Women in Philanthropy. They pack up the hundreds of donations for foster youth preparing to leave the system and live on their own for the first time.

"A lot of times they don't have new items to leave home, to leave the foster system," said Ruth Miller with Women in Philanthropy.

Towels, toiletries, even luggage -- all donated and dropped off, all in an effort to help local foster youth become financially prepared for life after foster care.

"Getting a basket with all these things really makes a difference for some of our youth, and it really opens this window for them to think about their futures. Budgeting, and things to thrive. Kind of help them move their life along and what they need day to day," said Zoe Larson, a former foster youth.

Larson knows first hand what the emancipating youth are facing, having been a successful product of the foster youth program herself. Now 22 years old, she recalls facing the realities of the real world.

"I had this idea that at 18 I was going to be thrown out the door and have no idea what to do with life. It was really terrifying," Larson said.

"A lot of life skills are missing from their lives because most children learn that from the time they're in a nucleus home. These children don't necessarily know that," Miller said.

The volunteers make sure the foster youth are on the right path, whether it's by donations or by life lessons. And if they fall off the path, they'll be there to help too.

"Without these people, these emancipation baskets would go away, and the impact that would make really shows just how much they're doing," Larson said.

All donations for the foster youth are purchased form a specific wishlist, you can get more information here.