Ministry conferences are usually upbeat, uplifting affairs that leave you invigorated and hopeful, but when Kile Bateman was headed back to Texas after attending a Christian gathering in California, he couldn’t shake what he’d seen. It was a teenager exiting a van as if being tossed out, his possessions stuffed in trash bags.
Bateman would later learn that age was the culprit in the troubling scenario. The teen was a foster care kid who was no longer a kid, at least according to the foster care system.
By their 18th birthday, foster youth are told they can go anywhere they want. They just can’t stay where they are.
Bateman, a pastor from Wichita Falls, first figured, oh, okay, those crazy Californians. Not so. No state is immune. Children age out without resources – or skills, for that matter, where they could at least find employment in a trade. Being the unwilling nomads foster kids often are, a high school diploma isn’t usually stuffed in that trash bag. Moving from home to home can leave them with few graduation credits.
“Imagine being the new kid in school every three to six months without the security and stability of a loving mother and father,” Bateman says. “Imagine, for a moment, that you are in a group home or treatment center simply because there is nowhere else to go – believing that no one wants you. Finally, on your 18th birthday, you are “out” without any resources or place to call home?”
That’s when Bateman stepped in, founding the non-profit Phased IN in Wichita Falls.
Bateman wanted a place resembling a family’s bosom where these teens could receive unconditional support. Family dinner or a birthday celebration would be nice, too.
This supervised independent living center has received kudos for servicing over 100 former foster care teens in the past six years.
Phased IN provides what many of these young people lack: a place to belong, to start over, to complete their education possibly, to get on with their lives.
In Arlington, over on Oakwood Street, a once vacant Assembly of God church building is being renovated as a new Phased IN facility. It will house 14 young women, give or take, says Cindy Wright, an Arlington Sunrise Rotary Club board member whose organization has been intimately involved in this project.
“It’s a perfect location because it has two buildings,” Wright tells me. “The girls will be in the big building. Then there will be a resident director who lives on the property. “
Each summer, the non-profit hosts the 18 Candles Gala (the last one was at the Collins Event Center), which offers community members an opportunity to get involved.
Phased IN needs all the help it can get. Administrators’ goals are lofty, sure, especially since transitional living programs don’t come cheap. Renovation alone is over $1 million.
Whenever one of its participants heads out on their own, it’s a win for Phased IN and society, trying to keep everyone, particularly teens, off the homeless roll.
Getting Phased IN phased in here has been both a love fest and a challenge, Wright adds, but “we are on track to open by December, or early January, at the latest.”
By the way, the Arlington location will house females only because they are considered natural prey, Wright says, for sex trafficking. I get it. After bouncing around five, ten homes, it’s doubtful anyone would notice if they disappear.
“To be able to pull them out and give them an opportunity to be loved, get a roof over their heads, some training, that’s a big deal,” Wright says. “It’s important to plant seeds, to give hope and motivation that they can live outside that cycle as long as they are willing to do the work.”
If you would like to find out more information, or if you would like to find out ways you can help Phased IN help area young people, visit phasedin.org/campuses/arlington-tx.