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Washtenaw United: 'Our House' Program Helps Local Foster Kids Transition To Adulthood

Jul 22, 2019

(From L to R) Alexis Deese-Romberg and Rose Putler
Credit Susan Smith / United Way of Washtenaw County

Once people age out of the foster care system, they face many uncertainties.  That is why the 'Our House' program was created.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair is joined by Our House volunteer Rose Putler and client Alexis Deese-Romberg to discuss what this program brings to the community.


WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'

About Our House

United Way of Washtenaw County has provided grant funding to build the capacity of Our House since 2015.  Our House was a fledgling organization with an all-volunteer staff at this time.  Capacity Building investment has allowed the organization to grow the effectiveness of their leadership, be more prepared to seek other funding, and expand their programming.

United Way chose to invest Capacity Building for this organization because of Our House’s mission to serve a very specific population: youth aging out of foster care.  We know the research tells us that investment in youth is critical to their success and the success of the community.  One of United Way’s priority areas is youth.  Education is the broadest avenue to opportunity and the most influential factor in ensuring that children grow into healthy and successful adults.

One key strategy United Way has identified for improving youth outcomes is programming that facilitates youth-adult relationships.  Research shows that youth with a single-supportive adult in their life are more successful in school and have the social and emotional security to build skills and learn how to navigate life.  Youth aging out of foster care are particularly vulnerable because they may have no supportive adults as they try to prepare themselves for living on their own and a career or college path.  The outcomes for youth aging out of foster care are particularly tough to grapple with: high likelihood of homelessness, 47% unemployment rate, fewer than 3% earning college degrees, 25% incarcerated within the first two years of leaving the system, higher PTSD rates than American war veterans. 

About Rose Putler, Volunteer Mentor with Our House

Rose is a mentor with Our House and has been volunteering with the organization since November 2016.  Alexis and Rose have been paired as mentor/mentee since February 2017.  In addition, she is a graduate of the biostatistics masters program at the University of Michigan and currently work as a bioinformatics scientist at the Ann Arbor office of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

About Alexis Deese-Romberg, Client with Our House

Alexis is 22 and began working with Our House after she graduated from high school while couch surfing between foster care.  The support that she receives from Our House has helped her by way of monetary support with a housing scholarship and mentor support to help her with budgeting, saving, taxes, and providing a stable adult who she trusts.  She attended their camp which includes fun activities like horseback riding in addition to STEM activities.  She works and is able to pay her bills while she decides on her next step. 

(From L to R) WEMU's David Fair, Alexis Deese-Romberg, and Rose Putler
Credit Susan Smith / United Way of Washtenaw County

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu