Imagine being asked on your 18th birthday to leave the only stable home you may have known, and fend for yourself with no money or adult support!  Sadly, this is the situation faced by the youth aging out of orphanages — known as Child Care Institutions — in India.

A Future for Every Child helps these youth get the training and mentoring to become self-sufficient.  The organization is hosting a free zoom event on Oct. 6th, 5-6:30pm Pacific, with Chief Guest Paraag Marathe, President of 49ers Enterprises, EVP of Football Operations, Vice Chairman of Leeds United FC, and Chairman of USA Cricket. To join the zoom, register here.  

You may hear about families desperate to adopt from India and waiting 2-3 years for a referral, and think that all children in CCIs must be getting placed in families.  Unfortunately, this is far from reality.  There are 400,000 children living in about 10,000 CCIs all over India.  Less than 3000 get adopted every year.

Children get admitted to CCIs due to being abandoned, becoming orphaned or escaping from terrible home situations. 99% of these children spend several years in institutional care (over half spend 10+ years) and age out at 18. The situation in India (and all over the world) is that children who grow up without familial care are only guaranteed shelter, food and education till the age of 18. 

As with all things in India, the numbers are enormous. Each year about 60,000 youth (called Care Leavers) age out of institutional care in India. These teenagers leave after having received sub-standard schooling, with no money for further education, no employable skills, and no family support. 2/3rds end up living in slums, and repeating the cycle of generational poverty.  Less than 25% receive any kind of assistance with housing or education after they leave the CCI.

My husband Madan and I are adoptive parents, and as all parents in fortunate circumstances do, we invested enormous effort and resources into launching our children, including our daughter who we adopted from Pune in 1997.  The situation that Care Leavers face feels particularly close to home for us, since but for a quirk of fate, our daughter could well have been one of these young adults!

In 2018 Madan and I founded A Future for Every Child to provide the education and training necessary for Care Leavers to become productive members of society. 

We enroll teenagers aging out of CCIs into our “AFEC Achievers” program.  We provide AFEC Achievers with career counseling. Based on their interests, aptitude, and level of schooling, they decide on either vocational training or higher education.  We provide full support, tuition and board for their educational choice, help with job placement, and mentoring for 2 years after employment, to ensure they are firmly on the path to self-sufficiency.  

AFEC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit registered in California.  We fund three NGO partners in India to deliver services on the ground. In addition to the funding, we work closely with our partners to define the program, standardize delivery, measure efficacy, improve quality and achieve scale.

Based on the career choice an AFEC Achiever makes, he or she can be in our program anywhere from 2.5 to over 5 years. In addition to direct costs of tuition, room and board, we fund program staff who are critical to providing some of the support structure normally provided by a family.  We also believe investment in robust data collection and analysis is needed to measure outcomes and continuously improve the program.

It takes absurdly little money to completely change a young person’s life!

We estimate that on average, it costs $800 per youth in the AFEC Achiever program.  $800 pays the average cost of the entire program from career counseling to skills training to post-placement mentoring.  For an amount that is less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day, and much less than the cost of a smartphone, a young adult is launched into adulthood equipped with skills to earn a good living.

AFEC is only 4 years old, but we are growing rapidly. We have enrolled 537 youth so far across seven states. They are pursuing a variety of programs varying in length from a 3-month office administration course to a 5-year Bachelors in Architecture.  124 are in steady employment after completing their training, earning Rs 10,000 – 23,000 per month.  (See our impact page!) 

Our goal is to enroll another 300 AFEC Achievers this year. AFEC’s Annual Fundraising Gala was on Sept. 17th, at the Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos CA. The theme of the very successful Gala was “Life is a Team Sport” featuring Paraag Marathe.

 No one succeeds alone – each of us can think back and remember who was on our team, encouraging and supporting us, as we stepped into adulthood.  Those of us who are older parents know how much we do to launch our own children to independence. Hope you will join us in showing these youth who have been twice abandoned, once in childhood, and again at 18, that there are people who care, and are on their team. If you cannot make to the zoom, you can still donate here.

Gita Gopal founded A Future for Every Child in 2018 along with her husband Madan Gopal. She is a long time Bay Area resident and retired high-tech executive. A mother of 3, Gita is passionate about supporting...