Last week I shared this article, We Are Abandoning Children in Foster Care, from CNN on my Twitter page. The article gives some shocking numbers, one of those being the
23,439 foster teens who aged out of foster care in 2012.
The reality that children are kicked out on their eighteenth birthday is made even more poignant when you read, Happy Birthday! Welcome to Homelessness. In this article, Pam Parish shows us what it’s like for teens who are no longer wards of the state. Not all of them have loving foster families who will act as their forever families.
In response to the tweet, We Are Abandoning Children in Foster Care, one of my followers asked if I knew of ten practical things anyone could do to help correct the problem. She asked for ten, but I only came up with eight, I think these eight will keep you fairly busy 🙂 :
- Adopt. Although these teens are eighteen and aging out of the system (meaning they will no longer be in a foster home), it doesn’t mean they don’t need, and deserve a family. If done through the state, the adoption should be free or very minimal.
- Become a surrogate family. Get to know a teen and be available to them as a family would. Support them in every way a forever family would.
- Support Connections Homes. Connections Homes is an organization founded by Pam Parish (a trustworthy friend of mine). Pam says, “Through our family’s journey, we’ve discovered a burning passion in our hearts for youth and young adults who have no one to belong to.”
The goal of Connections Homes is to provide connection for those foster teens who no longer have a place to call “home”. You can support Connections Homes in many ways, so be sure to check out their wonderful organization.
Pam says, “Every child should be able to launch out in life knowing that they have a seat at a Thanksgiving table somewhere. Knowing that if they get sick, get a promotion at work or fall in love, there’s someone there who will celebrate and care for them in those critical moments.”
Their biggest need right now is financial support to train families who will be the lifelong connections for these kids.
- Be a mentor. Children and teens need to know that /someone/ cares for them, by being a mentor you can be a consistent support in a child’s life.
- Provide respite. Through your local Department of Human Services you can find out which foster families don’t plan on caring for a teen past their eighteenth birthday. You can provide respite care for this family, get to know the teen, and be a family they can depend upon beyond their time in foster care.
- Become a tutor, which could turn into a mentoring situation. Encourage teens to graduate from high school and continue on to work in a field they enjoy or get a college degree.
- Provide a job. You can provide on the job training to a foster teen who might otherwise be ostracized because of their label. A teen coming from foster care may not have had good parent role models and will need assistance. Maybe you can provide this to them.
- Donate a car. In the article, Cars Donated to Foster Youth, Bree Boyce says, “…One of the greatest challenges [foster youth who age out of the system] face is transportation to work and school.” In Boyce’s article, she reports on The Riley Diversity Leadership Institute who partnered with The South Carolina Foster Parent Association to provide three vehicles to foster teens. The program, On the Road Again is a program which, “…provides donated cars to foster care youth who are at least 18 but not yet 21 years old, actively employed, pursuing a GED or engaged in a post high school educational program.” If you have the means, you can easily donate a car to a foster child wherever you live, or you can start an organization like this in your area.
In the article, Helping Children in Care Succeed, Fares Bounajm says, “Without stability, these youth [who are aging out of foster care] can face chronic unemployment, unplanned parenthood, homelessness, inadequately treated mental health issues and incarceration among other problems.”
*After posting this a friend shared with me about the organization, Salina’s Hope Foundation. Be sure to take a look at the amazing work they’re doing in Arizona.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to support foster youth. Please feel free to share with others.
Do you have other ideas on how to help teens who are aging out of the system?
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I personally experience the aging out teen situation. I am now 30 years old and I want to advocate for them because I that feel of being alone and no one to call on, I feel no child should ever go through life like that .
Tracy, just found your blog from the Foster Care Daily link. I love this piece and am looking forward to reading more. We are a small organization that works with teens in the DC area to keep them from aging out or ensuring they do so with the support of at least one caring committed adult. There are only a few of us across the country focused solely on finding adoptive families for youth.The ones I look to are You Gotta Believe in New York and Ampersand Families In St. Paul. We are Family & Youth Initiative (DCFYI) – http://www.dcfyi.org.
Thank you for stopping by and for all you do for foster youth. So discouraging that very few organizations help prepare youth for aging out and support them afterwards. As this issue arises in people’s minds I hope they step up to do something. Thanks for letting me know about these other groups.
I think there’s more recognition of responsibility of child welfare agencies to help young people prepare to age out (no idea how well or how much is done across the country) but much less so helping young people develop what could be lasting connections with adults who will stay in the lives of those young people. The problem re: more adoption programs for teens is a too common belief that teens are not adoptable and if one believes that, why would you put money into the impossible?!
I certainly hope that perception changes and more people understand that teens can be and are adopted. We believe that having at least one who is and will stay committed to a teen has the greatest impact on any child’s transition to adulthood.
Those connections are extremely important, I can’t imagine going through life without any. You are absolutely right.