Keya – Pursuing Your Passion

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What Happens to Foster Kids When They Age Out of the System? Keya tells her story.

Keya entered the foster care system at 8 years old and she spent the majority of the next 10 years confused and frustrated. She wanted to be a chef but was always discouraged from doing so. People told her, “You’re going to be overworked and underpaid.” However, through ACH Child and Family Services, Keya was able to pursue her dream of being a chef.

That didn’t mean becoming a chef wasn’t without its challenges.

Relationships are the key to success

ACH started The LIFE Project to help foster youth who age out of the foster system prepare for adulthood. As part of living there, residents are encouraged to attend what the LIFE project calls family meetings and dinners to interact with people their age and practice appropriate socialization skills. Keya was quiet the first month, but that created a rift between other youth in the program. She said attending family dinners helped sooth that rift and allowed her to start building friendships among the other girls. As she started opening up, she was able to get more out of the program and build key relationships.

One of those relationships was with her LIFE Mentor, Stephanie. Stephanie had also grown up in foster care, and the two shared a unique bond of how hard launching into adulthood is when you don’t have the social support provided by family systems. Keya kept her emotions to herself, but when Keya’s grandmother died, she turned to Stephanie for support. In the Counting On Us podcast, she shared, “I think that is the first and only time [Stephanie] has seen me bald face cry.”

Keya used coping skills after a sad death in her family

Keya said, of that experience, that she had to force herself to cry and become emotional in front of another person to get the support she needed, which was a huge step. Stephanie was able to help her process the complex grief she was going through of losing her best friend and favorite grandparent.

Stephanie encouraged Keya to process her emotions and be sad. Afterward, Keya baked a cake in honor of her grandmother. While she was baking, she reminded herself that her grandmother never feared death, but she welcomed it. That provided comfort as well.

Keya used coping skills after a sad death in her family

Stephanie and Keya worked together to combat depression. Baking was a great way to do that and also to be connected to her grandma. But it wasn’t enough by itself. Keya still had to find a way forward. Stephanie said, “We need to be first and foremost be mindful of [our client’s] mental health.” Together, they worked through Keya’s goals, which reminded her why she was in the LIFE Program. Stephanie let Keya know about Fort Worx, a collaboration between the Tarrant Area Food Bank, Taste Project, and The Culinary School of Fort Worth. This program is designed to help students get their foot in the culinary world. Keya applied and was accepted.

Everyone who taught Keya raved about her success in the program.
Keya graduated with her American Culinary Federation certification and is doing well on her way to becoming a chef.

Want to hear keya tell her story in her own words?

Part of the ACH Continuum of Care

ACH’s LIFE (Learning Independence from Experience) Project is a program that builds self-confidence and self-sufficiency in young adults ages 18 to 21 who are homeless or are in extended foster care. Young adults who are on their own are given guidance and support in developing life skills—such as applying to college, entering the workforce, and preparing to live independently.

Our expenses for The LIFE Project are greater than our resources and we are projecting a funding gap this year of $693,643. To learn more about our programs and to donate, visit

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