Roots & Wings

After foster care...Education. Stability. Self-sufficiency.
Because of R&W, I found the courage to go back to school. I am now a state certified EKG Technician. Now, I support myself and my children. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I know they are proud of me too. They go above and beyond for all their clients and they do it with such love and compassion. There really is no other place like it. They guide us when we need it. They don’t do the work for us, but they show us how to support ourselves. They laugh with us, they cry with us, they let us know that we are not alone. R&W opens their door for so many aged-out foster youth. I am so very grateful to have them in my life and cannot thank them enough for everything they do.
– Vanessa Barnard, client for 3 years

In New Jersey, 3,000 youth between 15 and 21 are involved with the Department of Youth and Family Services at any given point in time. Within two years of leaving the foster care system, one in four youth will be incarcerated, and many will end up homeless. Youth age out of the foster care system without support and resources to finish their education, find stable housing, and acquire a full-time job.

The Solution

Roots & Wings exists to serve young adults aging out of the foster care system in New Jersey. These young adults exit the foster care system, many before they graduate high school, without a safe, stable housing option. Many are homeless, have debt, and suffer from mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Roots & Wings meets the unique, individualized needs of each young adult through comprehensive, 24/7 support. With a case management and client-centered model, Roots & Wings assesses the needs of each young adult and develops goals for a successful future. Services include educational support, financial planning and budgeting, life-skills training, and counseling. Each young adult is also assigned a mentor who provides one-on-one encouragement, support, and guidance to help meet his or her goals.

Believing in the importance of education for a lifetime of self-sufficiency, Roots & Wings helps each client earn a high school diploma, a two- or four-year degree, or a vocational certificate. By building a strong foundation for this at-risk population, Roots & Wings helps the young adults they serve replace a life of dependency with one of self-sufficiency.

A key aspect of the model is a residential program that provides safe, stable housing for young adults until they can live independently. Those with stable housing can also receive services; Roots & Wings serves any young adult who has aged out of the New Jersey foster care system.

The Story

Irene DeGrandpre was working as a court appointed special advocate volunteer and witnessing the devastating setbacks youth face as they age out of the foster care system. In 1999, she founded Roots & Wings as a community-based volunteer operation. Since then, it has grown to a leading organization serving young adults who age out of the foster care system in New Jersey. Today, Emily Marchese serves as the executive director with a deep passion give young adults the support and opportunities they deserve.

Stand Together Foundation PARTNERSHIP

Roots & Wings is a 2017 Stand Together Foundation Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Roots & Wings receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.

Denville, New Jersey
est. 1999
Emily Marchese
Executive Director
Read bio
Emily Marchese is the executive director of Roots & Wings, an organization that serves aged-out foster young adults in the state of New Jersey. Ms. Marchese has over ten years of experience fundraising to support at-risk youth in New York and New Jersey. Most recently, she raised $4 million annually as director of foundations and corporations for Student Sponsor Partners in New York, a regional non-profit providing scholarships and mentors to low-income students for all four years of high school. She previously held leadership roles at CancerCare, the Endowment for Inner-City Education, and St. Philip’s Academy, in Newark, New Jersey. She is an honors graduate of Cornell University.
Success Metrics
Of clients have GED or high school equivalency
Are pursuing 2-4 year degrees
Exit the program into safe housing
Require no government assistance
Are employed
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