State extends foster care program from 18 to 21

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Like many fun-loving 20-year-olds, Sierra Dabbs is just beginning to find her purpose and her passion.

“I want to help people. I don’t know how I want to, but I know I do,” Dabbs said.

That desire to help others is a result of a system that has helped her through the past five years of her life.

“Me and my step parent did not get along very well,” she said.

Dabbs is one of more than 100,000 kids in North Carolina’s foster care system. A new law took effect Jan. 1, 2017, allowing young adults to stay within that system until they’re 21. The previous state standard was 18 years old. That program supplies young adults with support, as long as they are actively pursuing extended education, workforce training or working a job.

“When I turned 18 I was ready to go home and I did go home and it just wasn’t right,” Dabbs said. She’s currently being helped by Seven Homes foster care services, which as a private nonprofit, allowed kids to stay until they were 21 before this law was enacted. “I just knew that I wasn’t gonna get what I needed to get done.”

“It gives them that extra to help them succeed and help them become a productive citizen,” said Jodi Lambert, with Seven Homes. “Just finding some stability and permanence for them.”

Lambert says part of the support for these kids comes in the form of a stipend from the state. That money varies from foster child to child. This can be more than $600 per month for kids 18-21. That money goes towards groceries, rent and other living expenses to help the kids become independent.

It’s perfect for Dabbs, who is trying to get back to school and possibly do volunteer work as she’s working as a hostess in Asheboro.

“I’m trying to figure it out still, and of course I make stupid decisions like any other 20-year-old now or 18-year-old, and thankfully Seven Homes has helped me and supported me through all those dumb decisions,” she said.