sojourner darryn
PHOTO COURTESY JASON CHAVARA HAPPY REUNION — Darryn Ferguson, right, meets with Pat Dunn to talk about the possibility of a job with Dunn’s company, The Duma Group. Darryn got the job, and got a mentor in the bargain. Through the Christian ministry called Young Life, Darryn got help with adjusting to life after foster care. Many foster-care graduates don’t get help, and two out of three will be homeless, in jail or dead two years after leaving foster care, according to a 2012 study by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. Young Life’s Soujourners program hopes to improve their odds.


I became teary-eyed as I looked across the table at Darryn Ferguson. To most, it would not have seemed extraordinary, but to me, it was a miracle. 

It had been four years since I had last heard from Darryn, and here he was with me in DeLand, sharing updates about his life over coffee. 

The statistics surrounding kids like Darryn who age out of the foster care system are heartbreaking. Sitting across from Darryn was a gift, but to learn how well he was doing, that was a miracle.

I met Darryn and his buddy, Lane, during their freshman year in high school about five years ago. Every week, I visited DeLand High School during lunch. I would find Lane and Darryn, and I would listen to their plans to make it big one day as YouTube stars. 

As our friendship grew, I eventually invited these guys to Young Life club and camp. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Darryn lived in a small group home that was walking distance from our Young Life office at the time.

Like so many foster youth, Darryn sometimes got frustrated with the system and his situation, and acted out. Several times over the next few months, his case worker would call me and ask if I could check Darryn out and spend some time with him. We would usually go out for Chinese food, and I would simply listen. 

But that summer, after an incredible week at Carolina Point Young Life camp, I never heard from Darryn again and couldn’t find out what happened to him.

Fast-forward four years, and, in April, Darryn found me on social media, and we connected. After I realized he was back in DeLand, I had to see him. 

Over coffee, Darryn told me about his life over the past four years. He shared that he got moved to multiple group homes in at least three counties — Hillsborough, Polk and Brevard. 

With all of these moves, there was a time when the system lost his high-school transcripts and Darryn was worried he would have to restart high school. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Darryn has since aged out of the foster-care system and moved back to DeLand. He is working two or three jobs and has his head on his shoulders. 

The fact that Darryn was sitting across from me, instead of being homeless or in jail, was a miracle indeed. The odds were stacked against him.

The statistics on foster youth in our county, state and country are jaw-dropping, especially for the young people who age out of the system. Roughly 443,000 youth in America are in the foster-care system, and 23,000 age out every year. 

The average foster youth lives in 13 different homes before the age of 18.

Despite the fact that the government will pay for their post-secondary education, 97 percent of foster youth will not earn a college degree. Upon aging out at 18, one in four kids find themselves calling a jail home, and one in five are instantly homeless. 

Sadly, within 18 months, almost 50 percent of all the young adults who have transitioned out of foster care will have experienced homelessness. By the time you get to two years after aging out, two out of three former foster youths are dead, homeless or in jail.

A recent study discovered that about 1,500 foster children in Florida stayed in 12 different homes in a single year. More than 7,500 moved an average of once a month over a six-month period. Almost 2,000 children had six placements in just one month. 

We recently heard about a 16-year-girl in West Volusia who has been to 12 different high schools and is currently in an emergency foster-care placement. There is a good chance she will be moved again and will have to attend another high school. Just this week, we had five students at one high school who are connected to Young Life tell us that they are being moved to another group home or foster family in another city and will have to change schools.

Darryn’s story and the statistics of so many foster youth are the reason we decided to name our Young Life ministry dedicated to foster youth, Young Life Sojourners. 

A “sojourner” is defined as someone who is a temporary resident, a transient person.

“The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless,” according to Psalm 146:9.

Our Sojourners ministry is focused on high-school teens as they prepare to age out of the foster-care system. We’ve learned that by the time a foster youth is 14, they are coming to grips with the reality that an adoption is unlikely. I’ve had friends tell me they are “unadoptable” after this age. 

Though we wish and pray that they will be adopted before they age out, we want to come alongside these foster teens and help them discover the unique way that God has created them.

As they discover their unique identities, we want to help them navigate the complexities of the world outside of the system, so they can attain the skills and education they need. We want to help them network and connect with leaders in our community.

While Darryn may be already out of the system, we were able to connect him with people in our community who were looking to find good, competent and reliable workers. A local small-business owner, entrepreneur and friend of Young Life, Pat Dunn, recently needed such a worker for his business, The Duma Group.

We were able to connect Pat and Darryn. Darryn not only got a job, he also got a mentor in Pat, who has been able to teach him about being an entrepreneur and a small-business owner, both things Darryn is interested in.

Young Life Sojourners is just one way this community can rally around the teenagers in the foster-care system in our county. As you can see, the need is great. A caring adult coming alongside a foster youth while they are in the system, and maintaining a relationship afterward can make a difference. 

We believe God will use such a relationship to make the difference in a former foster child becoming a thriving young adult, rather than a homeless, incarcerated or dead one. It is our hope that through their experiences in Young Life camp and club events, these foster youth will develop strong friendships with their Young Life mentors that will last after they age out of the system. 

And, even more, that these young people have had time to identify their God-given calling for life and vocation, and are able to make plans for how to achieve them.

HAPPY REUNION — Darryn Ferguson, left, and Young Life Director Jason Chavara meet to catch up at a DeLand coffeehouse. Darryn found Young Life while attending DeLand High School.

— Chavara is the metro director of Young Life in Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties. Young Life, according to its website, is a Christian ministry that reaches out to middle-school, high-school and college students in all 50 of the United States and in more than 100 countries around the world. To donate to Young Life locally or to volunteer, visit or email


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