“This is your book, your chapter in life, and you have to speak up for the things you want, and the things you need,”

Ashley is a young woman wise beyond her years. She has to be. At four years old, Ashley entered into the foster care system, where she bounced around from family to family for nearly 15 years and never found a permanent family. It was a difficult and emotional time. One of the families, in whom she thought she could find security, betrayed her trust. Ashley remembers being scared to speak up for a long time.

When Ashley was 17 and still unadopted, a judge referred her to Lad Lake to help her learn how to live independently for the first time. She was ready.

“Lad Lake helped me with my first apartment at 17 ½ and taught me a lot of ‘big girl’ stuff,” explains Ashely, “I was still in high school at the time so they really helped me do a lot. They helped me with budgeting, food shopping, learning how to sign checks, and understanding an apartment lease.”

After she graduated from Lad Lake’s Independent Living program, she moved onto the Connections program. She later began volunteering, served as President for the State’s Youth Advisory Council on Foster Care, and Lad Lake awarded her a Bright Lights Big Dreams scholarship. She is currently working for a social service agency and wants to get her degree in social work – with an ultimate goal of becoming a motivational speaker for at-risk youth.

“I always considered myself a go-getter,” says Ashley, “Now I want to be a voice for kids who are afraid to speak, or are too little to speak. This is for everybody who has been there like me.”


  • 42% of foster kids who turn 18 without ever being adopted become homeless that year.
  • Kids who age out of foster care are also at high risk of school failure and, in Wisconsin, 47% will drop out.
  • Former foster kids at Lad Lake are not only more likely to graduate from high school, but twice as likely to go onto secondary education or college.