Ill Equipt

The statistics for young men and women “aging” out of the foster care system on their eighteenth birthdays are brutal.

In Texas alone, 1,200 of these 18-year-olds become part of the tens of thousands of homeless youth on the streets. Without parents or dedicated mentors to guide them through difficult life decisions, most are destined for a lifetime of poverty.

According to the National Foster Youth Institute, less than three percent will achieve a college degree, despite the fact, 70 percent express a desire to attend college. Sixty percent of males will be convicted of a crime, and seven out of ten females will become pregnant before the age of 21.

Instant homelessness, or jail, is the prospect for 20 percent of the more than 23,000 youth who age out of the system annually. Only half will become gainfully employed by age 24. The numbers are even scarier when you consider a new group of 23,000 young adults each year will cause these stats to swell exponentially because they are true “Ill Equipt” to transition into adulthood. The vast majority have no idea how to navigate the frequently murky waters of life, and, for them, it becomes a sink-or-swim situation.

This is where Kristie and Jared Hanhart of Fort Worth steps into the picture. 

“We founded Ill Equipt, a non-profit, last year,” Kristie explained. “We focus primarily on young men who have aged out of the system with no place to go and no idea of what they need to begin their adult lives. The process happens naturally for most of us but not for former foster care individuals.

“We’re available 24/7 at Ill Equipt. We want these young men to understand we’re always here to help in whatever ways they need. Some of the practical tasks we help with include getting an ID/driver’s license, a social security card, and a birth certificate and guiding them on how to get a GED if they didn’t graduate from high school.

“Almost every one of these young men need help in acquiring job skills, housing, and employment. Those of us who experienced these things as a natural life progression have a hard time imagining being totally lost in these areas.”

The Hanharts went through extensive training and testing to become licensed foster parents for the state of Texas two years ago. Their interest in mentoring young men was spurred by Jared, who was a member of the foster care system and eventually adopted by his foster parents.

There are no empty slots on the Hanharts’ time schedule. They established a cleaning service, which Kristie manages, 13 years ago. Jared has a full-time job as an industrial mechanic, which he handles at night. They have three adult children, ranging from 19 to 22. There is a grandbaby and, currently, four foster children, all siblings. And, of course, there are fundraisers to plan and implement, special events, and public appearances and speeches. It’s a load that would beat most of us into an early grave.

“Our entire family has a role in Ill Equipt,” Kristie said. “Our oldest son is on Ill Equipt’s Board of Directors. Yes, we’re super busy, but we just always figure out a way to make things work.

“We’re on our 14th foster kiddo. Many of them are very short-term since the goal if at all possible, is to have them return to a family member. Sometimes it’s the parents. Other times it’s the grandparents.

“We become attached to them very quickly, but we also realize the best place for them is with their biological families, as long as they can provide safe and loving environments.”

The Hanharts’ fervent hope is they never hear the voice of one of their former fosters on the telephone to Ill Equipt. If that happens, it will mean something went terribly amiss. But, if it does happen, Kristie and Jared will meet them with open arms and do all they can to keep them from drowning in those earlier quoted statistics.

It’s all a matter of equipping the Ill Equipt.


Similar Posts