You may have heard the phrase that “each child is different.” It is so true. No two people will grow up or develop identically, even if they were raised in the same situation. So why do agencies think the same scenario will work for every child in care? The needs of each child must be recognized and met. This is what Mike Long is doing for foster youth in Florida.

Mike created Sail Futures, a new and innovative foster care program, according to Fox 13 News. He takes boys, ages 15-18, and teaches them sailing techniques and etiquette.

But Mike’s program is so much more than about sailing. He lives with the group of boys under one roof. On top of sailing, they are attending school, getting job-readiness skills, as well as life lessons on how to live with others.

Sail Futures started five years ago, and the current group of 6 boys has been with Mike for over two years. The boys say that this opportunity has completely turned their life around. Tionne, one of the teens in Mike’s program, stated, “If it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t have my GED. I wouldn’t have been enrolled in college. I wouldn’t have a job. I would still be doing the bad stuff I was doing in Clearwater.”

It is so vital for programs such as Sail Futures to come alongside and assist these children in care. Aging out of care can have detrimental effects on the child. In an article titled “How Many Children Are in Foster Care? Understanding the Statistics,” the article states that “of those children who age out of foster care, 25% do not graduate from high school, 40% become homeless, and 60% of males are convicted of some sort of crime.”

Those statistics just reiterate the importance of community for children and youth in care. Not only does Sail Futures work with the youth on school and job readiness, it also provides the boys in this program a sense of accomplishment and a way to give back to the community by completing service projects. These service projects give the youth a wonderful opportunity of doing good for others. Mike stated that he tried to make the program and the group of youth feel like a family, especially since they are all under one roof. Tionne stated, “I believe it works better; it’s more like a family to me.”