Razing the Bar History

Razing the Bar (RTB) was founded in 2017 by Dontae Lartigue and Ty Thompson, who both spent over 20 years involved with the foster care system, as a foster youth/youth advocate and a counselor/mentor, respectively. Together, the two built on their vision to create an environment where foster youth who are aging out of the foster care system can develop the sorts of stable, familial relationships with their peers, mentors, and other community members that help them develop into self-sufficient adults.

Today, we’re still proudly working to fulfill the RTB mission to assist under-resourced youth populations build the positive, supportive and lasting relationships they need to make a successful transition to adulthood. To achieve that mission, RTB employs four major modules for developing success:

  • Case Management
  • Personal Development
  • Professional Development
  • Community Support

In June of 2017 RTB partnered with a local real estate investor who was willing to support our efforts by providing us reduced rent to house homeless youth – most of whom had aged out of the foster care system. RTB immediately began housing youth, and within a month of its founding, were providing housing support for six youth. Once stabilized, we focused on positive reinforcement, relational development and building trust.

Early History – It Was All A Dream

While Razing the Bar is just beginning to bud, the seeds that led to the founding of the organization were planted long ago:

Due to a family situation beyond his control, Dontae was placed in foster care at the age of 5. He was separated from all of his siblings, including his twin sister. Since his separation from his family, from a systems standpoint, was never adequately dealt with, Dontae began early on to show signs of acting out. As a result, he became entangled in other public systems, including juvenile justice. He’d come to spend the bulk of his life navigating public systems.

Along his journey there were a few people that made an impact on his life; that were consistently there, regardless of what he’d done. They didn’t give up on him – and that was all the inspiration he needed. Dontae was fully aware of the inadequacies of the foster care system, based on his own lived experiences, and soon became an advocate for changing the same system he was a part of. He became involved in foster youth advocacy and quickly started making a name for himself. Several local nonprofits that served foster youth and provided services to Dontae, noticed his commitment to betterment and began to use his story successfully as a focal point of their respective fundraising campaigns to improve foster youth outcomes. His story was powerful, and further, testified to the significance and long term impact of positive, nurturing and permanent relationships in the lives of foster youth.

Dontae was on a mission to change the system he was a part of, and he knew that the catalyst was to start his own program. He wanted to put relational support to under resourced youth populations at the forefront of all services provided. He envisioned building permanent communities, supported by both program participants and staff alike.

In 2017 Dontae reached out to one of his mentors, Ty Thompson. He, too, shared Dontae’s vision. He’d worked for public systems, including probation, foster care, special education and general assistance, and knew firsthand the power of relationships when trying to institute behavioral change. Within weeks they began working on a program model and exploring opportunities. They came up with the name “Razing the Bar,” because they wanted to fundamentally rebuild, from a systems standpoint, how agencies serve under resourced youth populations.

Early Signs of Progress

It’s been said before that when working with under resourced populations, “They have to think that you care before they care what you think.”

One year into RTB’s case management program, we’re excited to report that 5 out of the 6 original youth participants have made significant gains in earnings (averaging over a 20% increase in earned wages), and more importantly, are displaying signs of increased self-esteem. More than half are now interested in pursuing higher education, so we’re currently expanding our program modules to support those efforts as well.

The 1 youth that isn’t represented as making gains, was on probation when accepted into the program, and violated the terms of his probation. After a warrant was issued for his arrest, we sat down with him several times and went over his options – letting him guide the process. He turned himself in, and we continued to support him. We were at his hearings and remained in contact even during his incarceration. He was released 4 months later, off of probation and ready to start a new chapter in his life – and we were here for him. He’s currently working, and we’re exploring trade school options. In our estimation, this too is a success.

Now that they know that we care, they’re more susceptible to caring about what we think; which underpins our model of relational supported success.

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