The JEMfriends story begins in the heart of a young girl who could not stand the thought of anyone being rejected or forgotten. From the time she first understood the meaning of abortion, Liberty Barrett wanted to found a home where children rejected and neglected could be safe and loved. Liberty’s parents introduced her to the work of Hope House, a local children’s home.
As a teenager, Liberty read the story of another girl her same age who had been through several foster homes, a failed adoption, and eventually landed at Hope House. In Amanda’s story, Liberty saw someone who needed a friend. Liberty used her highschool years to engage with girls living at Hope House through playing sports, writing letters, prayer groups Through persistent effort Liberty gained Amanda as her best friend.
In 2008, the time came for them to graduate high school. Liberty had a front seat view to the adversity faced by youth leaving foster situations, but she finally understood the day Amanda asked Liberty to speak for her at her graduation. Amanda had no one else to ask. While Liberty had a whole pool of people to choose: family, friends, mentors, Amanda only had one that she wanted to speak. Pondering her responsibility and how to best to encourage Amanda in her transition, Liberty did an internet search on leaving children’s homes, and she discovered the concept of aging-out and the dire situation it presented. Three statistics burned into her mind.
Within 2 years of aging-out, she read, 50% of aged-out youth will not have finished high school. 1 in 4 will be incarcerated. 50% will be homeless.
These were the odds bearing down upon Liberty’s friends. Why? Because they did not have the community of loving people around them to support their transition. Liberty knew her advantage, and she didn’t want to see any of her friends become the same statistics, so Liberty made plans to start JEMfriends, which would be a community of friends and supporters for aging-out youth.Upon graduating, Liberty founded JEMfriends. She took the name from her own support system, her siblings who to a young woman with a big vision, exemplified what JEMfriends will always be: a community supporting others in fulfilling their dreams.