Woman helps struggling youth: Uses retirement savings to buy home, and makes a refuge for kids

Her goal was to help lesbian girls in foster care and provide a safe place to nurture them. In the past nine years, Mary Keane has helped 18 children and young adults (gay, lesbian and straight). Kids who were not doing well in foster homes, group homes or treatment centers have been offered a calm consistent home in Yonkers, New York.

I wanted to be a mentor, to give older kids a safe place to grow up,” she said. “Most people want little kids, because they can mold them, so kids over 14 tend to be the most difficult to place.”

At 60, Ms. Keane shares her house with 10 people under the age of 23, two cats and a parakeet. She posts assigned chores on a kitchen cabinet; rules include curfews, no drinking or drugs and no romantic overnight guests.

Bills get paid through her salary at You Gotta Believe! a New York City-based placement agency for teenage adoptees, and from government subsidies for being a foster parent. Some of the residents with part-time jobs have offered to chip in for rent or groceries, but she tells them to save the money for school or personal expenses.