Approximately 130 young people leave foster care each year without many permanent family connections. The Open Table is a national faith-based model being used in Cuyahoga County by churches, non-profits, and business people to create a family of support around young people who didn’t grow up with their family.
Six to eight volunteers commit to one young person for one year. During weekly meetings they help the young person create, organize and achieve his/her life goals. Table members use their networks, connections, skills and life experiences to help broaden opportunities for young people who didn’t necessarily receive the guidance they needed as they were growing up. The table is a non-judgmental space where people come together to support and encourage the young person to pursue his/her dreams. At the end of the year, the table continues with supportive friendships and ends the isolation that all too often comes with growing up in foster care.
Thomas Pristow, former Director of the Dept. of Health an Human Services in Cuyahoga County has said, “Open Table has the depth and breadth to be the single most contributing factor in changing the life of our youth in a positive, healthy and supported way. It has by far the most potential in the multitude of services we offer to be the most impactful in the lives of our youth.”
PNC was the first business partner in Cleveland to sponsor a table, and recruit from employees to have a table. They are be pioneers and their leadership has challenged the rest of the business community to get involved in the transformational work of mentoring young people.
Current statistics for Cleveland:
Open Table Initiative for Cleveland began informally in 2014. Since that time we have launched 14 tables. The YWCA of Greater Cleveland became one of two non-profits to help launch tables and lead the way in the community. YWCA currently has 12 tables.
The tables represent over 10 different faith communities and individuals who just heard about the model and wanted to mentor a young person. Our ultimate goal is to be able to offer a table to each young person who would like to develop permanent supportive relationships with community members. The YWCA is interested in having tables for all the young people who live in Independence Place and who are a part of Community NIA. We also serve young people impacted by homelessness through A Place For Me.