In New Jersey, 3,000 youth between 15 and 21 are involved with the Department of Youth and Family Services at any given point in time. Within two years of leaving the foster care system, one in four youth will be incarcerated, and many will end up homeless. Youth age out of the foster care system without support and resources to finish their education, find stable housing, and acquire a full-time job.
Roots & Wings exists to serve young adults aging out of the foster care system in New Jersey. These young adults exit the foster care system, many before they graduate high school, without a safe, stable housing option. Many are homeless, have debt, and suffer from mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Roots & Wings meets the unique, individualized needs of each young adult through comprehensive, 24/7 support. With a case management and client-centered model, Roots & Wings assesses the needs of each young adult and develops goals for a successful future. Services include educational support, financial planning and budgeting, life-skills training, and counseling. Each young adult is also assigned a mentor who provides one-on-one encouragement, support, and guidance to help meet his or her goals.
Believing in the importance of education for a lifetime of self-sufficiency, Roots & Wings helps each client earn a high school diploma, a two- or four-year degree, or a vocational certificate. By building a strong foundation for this at-risk population, Roots & Wings helps the young adults they serve replace a life of dependency with one of self-sufficiency.
A key aspect of the model is a residential program that provides safe, stable housing for young adults until they can live independently. Those with stable housing can also receive services; Roots & Wings serves any young adult who has aged out of the New Jersey foster care system.
Irene DeGrandpre was working as a court appointed special advocate volunteer and witnessing the devastating setbacks youth face as they age out of the foster care system. In 1999, she founded Roots & Wings as a community-based volunteer operation. Since then, it has grown to a leading organization serving young adults who age out of the foster care system in New Jersey. Today, Emily Marchese serves as the executive director with a deep passion give young adults the support and opportunities they deserve.
Roots & Wings is a 2017 S+ Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Roots & Wings receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.