Local businesses giving foster children work experience

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Children who grow up in the foster system may not have the chance to get that first job, important work experience before becoming adults. United Methodist Family Services is partnering with local businesses to give foster children that opportunity.

16-year-old Bruce Watson, a foster child, is learning critical skills on his first job, a paid internship with Car Pool car wash.

"Take after my own responsibilities, like if I mess up on one thing, they'll go after me and say that I did something wrong, then I'll make sure I don't do it wrong again," Bruce told us.

Car Pool is one of several companies giving kids like Bruce that first break. Said Car Pool CEO Paul Carr, "What it really helps them build is accountability, showing up for work on time, following instructions, just basic job skills they'll need when they get out there."

When children are raised in foster care, they may have changed families and homes, and may not have a chance to get that first job.

Said Jean Hepburn, Community Outreach Coordinator for UMFS, "Children who have been through trauma and come into the foster care system, sometimes that transition or preparation to young adulthood, it's put on the back burner."

With a grant from Altria, and partnerships with local companies, UMFS has placed 30 foster children in paid internships to help them learn job skills they'll need.

Said Hepburn, "We tell them to practice good communication, to know what it's like to show up in the right clothing, on time, listening to a supervisor, getting along with peers, working with teamwork."

The internships last 6 to 8 weeks, but could later turn into jobs. Said Carr, "I'm sure we'll see some of those kids down the road hopefully and build connections and provide an opportunity for them to come back and work for us in the real world."

Bruce plans to put his experience to work.

"It will help me get another job when I graduate high school. Because when I get out of high school, I want to be in the Navy Seals," he told us.

UMFS is looking for more companies to get involved. There's no cost for the business. UMFS can be reached at 353-4461 or via email at Richmond@UMFS.org.