Of the approximately 900 children in foster care in the Cedar Rapids area, roughly 40% are teens. Every year, at least 25 of these teens turn 18 and graduate from high school while in the foster care system. These teens often lack the support and resources that young adults need to live independently.
To fill this important need in the community, the Junior League of Cedar Rapids has developed the program Bridging the G.A.P. (Guide. Advocate. Provide.) JLCR fills suitcases with items necessary to live independently such as bedding, pots and pans, and cleaning supplies. The project also partners JLCR with AMP (Achieving Maximum Potential), a program that empowers young adults by supporting the development of life skills.

Community partners

  • AMP (Achieving Maximum Potential)
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • Foundation 2

How it works
Funds from the Kashi Grant go to support the Guide track which provides healthy and affordable meals for the foster teens twice monthly during their support meeting.
Two Thursdays a month members come together to plan and execute a healthy dinner for 30+ foster youth. Participants experience a wide variety of nutritious foods cooked by League members, including black bean brownies, sautéed kale and baked peaches and learn to cook many of these foods themselves.

The program is the only one in the area that offers support to this population. On the state level, JLCR members have been working closely with legislators to increase awareness of the need to support foster youth in the state. In fact, one of the other veins of the G.A.P Program – Advocate- offers members opportunities to learn about other ways they can support  foster youth. AMP members create their own legislative agenda, which JLCR members have used to advocate for foster youth, including at AJLI’s Hill Day in May 2013.

 What’s the impact?
In 2014, JLCR will be celebrating its 80th birthday with a celebration that will feature AMP youth as chefs for the party. After years for JLCR members cooking for them, they will cook for the members, supporters and sustainers at this public celebration. In addition, AMP youth “paid it forward” this year by cooking dinner for families at Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City.