Thousands of kids nationwide are moved into foster care with uncertain futures when they age out at 18.

Now, a former foster child from the Capital Region is making it her mission to give teenagers the confidence they need to succeed.

“I was born in this house right here, which I just learned about this year,” Rachael Howarth said.

The apartment building on Congress Street in Troy is where Howarth’s biological mother carried her for nine months. But just weeks after she was born, she was removed and placed in foster care.

Howarth was eventually adopted by relatives and lived in a loving, healthy home. But she’s well aware that’s rarely the case. Oftentimes, foster children will bounce around from foster homes to group homes.

“We can go overseas and we can help the most obvious cases of orphans, which absolutely needs to happen – every child matters – but we don’t realize we have orphans right in our own backyard,” Howarth said.

Howarth said many foster kids have little to call their own – if anything at all.

“Some kids will show up at their foster parents’ house with a garbage bag of their clothes because they have to get removed so quickly,” she explained.

And after years of consideration, Howarth decided to created Project Foster Dignity.

“You kind of finally find out what you’re supposed to do,” she said.

The goal of the non-profit is to find foster youth who are in need and supply them with basic necessities and a wardrobe they’ll feel good in.

“I have definitely heard cases from my kids that I’ve shopped with that they’ve been picked on because of what they’re wearing,” Howarth said.

In an effort to protect the teens’ identity, she teamed up with an artist who creates caricatures for fundraising efforts.

“We share them as if you were going to share a GoFundMe, but we typically go through Facebook,” she explained. “$700 to $1,000 per kid to get them a full wardrobe.”

Her first call came from a foster care organizer in North Carolina, who was interested in sending two of her girls. Each of their $700 goals were raised within seven hours

“They are the exact age group that I am targeting,” Howarth explained. “One was going into high school, and one was graduating and aging out. The reason I’m using that age group specifically is because they’re typically the age group that is not getting adopted or again out of the system, and unfortunately, there are some really egregious statistics about what happens to a foster child when they age out.”

Statistics show that more than 23,000 children will age out of the U.S. foster care system every year. After reaching the age of 18, 20 percent of the children who were in foster care will become homeless.

“If they’re only worried about surviving, they can’t thrive,” Howarth said.

And it’s more than just a shopping trip; it’s also a mentorship.

“Listen, you’re 15 years old, you have an opportunity right now,” she said. “The world hasn’t been kind to you and you are living in the consequences of what other people did and that’s not fair and I’m sorry. But I said, what happens when you’re 15, is the playing field gets even because you can work now and you can get a job. It just completely transforms their mind. Like, I care about you; I see you; I see the vision for your future; and I want you to see it, too. It’s been really beautiful.”

Howarth is currently based out of Nashville, but she’s already bringing the focus back home to the Capital Region.