Jonathan's House Ministries helps foster children transition to adulthood photo

From left, Rebekah Conner, Amanda Bartley and Craig Bartley meet at Tunnel Hill First Baptist Church to discuss Catwalk for a Cause, a fundraiser for Jonathan's House Ministries, which aims to help those who have aged out of foster care transition to independent, adult living.

"Now David said, 'Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?'” — 2 Samuel 9:1

Amanda and Craig Bartley have been foster parents for older children.

"We saw how things are stacked against the older kids," Amanda said. "There's only a 16% chance you'll get adopted if you are over the age of 14. Each year, the United States adopts about 7,000 kids out of foster care. On average, 27,000 age out of foster care with no support. Forty percent of those kids are instantly homeless."

The Bartleys decided to do something about that. They founded Jonathan's House Ministries, which serves people 18 to 25 who have aged out of foster care or who are homeless.

"In the Bible, David promised Jonathan he would take care of his lineage, and he did," said Amanda. "After Jonathan died, David found his son, Mephibosheth, who had been crippled. David took him and his family and his servants into his house and took care of him for life."

Based out of Tunnel Hill First Baptist Church, Jonathan's House offers a two-year program for these young adults that includes housing assistance, full coverage of rent and utilities for the first six months and 50% coverage of rent and utilities for the next six months.

"We offer mentorship and skills assistance," said Amanda. "We match our participants with people in the community. It can be based on what career they are interested in. Or it may be based on some trauma they have suffered. They are matched with someone who has suffered that same trauma. We match them with people who can help them transition into adulthood. We also offer financial counseling. We work with them on budgeting and paying bills and things like that. We invite all of the group homes and independent living facilities in north Georgia to come to that. We teach things like financial management, getting a job and keeping it. We did a a sewing and cooking class."

Amanda says young adults are steered towards them by local agencies and schools. She says they partner with other agencies to help them find jobs and other services they qualify for.

"We want to help these kids become successful adults and break the cycle of kids who are in foster care who are the children of people who were in foster care," said Amanda. "Seventy percent of girls who age out of foster care are pregnant by the time they are 21."

Craig says many foster parents are willing and able to help the children they foster acquire the skills they need to be successful adults but some aren't.

Since last April, Jonathan's House has helped 13 people.

"We currently have nine people in the program in three houses," Amanda said.

Matthew Woeltje is one of the young people currently in the program.

"They have been so helpful," he said. "I can't say enough about what they have done."

Rebekah Conner, who works with the Bartleys, says the program impacts many.

"The classes and the training are available to local group homes, so Jonathan's House is having an impact on those kids," she said.

The group is privately funded. Conner, who owns Wildwood Charm Boutique, and Amanda are organizing a fashion show and dinner fundraiser called Catwalk for a Cause for Jonathan's House on Thursday, April 16, at Walnut Hill Farm. The scheduled speaker is Miss Georgia Victoria Hill. She was first runner-up at the Miss America 2020 contest and has made supporting children in foster care her cause.

"That will be our major fundraiser for the year," said Amanda.

To find out more about Catwalk for a Cause or to buy tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com/e/catwalk-for-a-cause-presented-by-wildwood-charm-boutique-tickets-92422892359.

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