Foster Culture

October 15, 2007

“Getting Older is Not Easy For Youth in Foster Care”

Getting older is not easy for youths in foster care

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
April 23, 2006

Estimated printed pages: 3

Spring is the time of the year when most 17- and 18-year-olds begin to think about proms, high school graduations and entering college. Most teenagers have the emotional and financial support of family as they mark these milestones. Unfortunately, for youth in foster care, these events are fraught with challenges and obstacles. Without money for formal attire, transportation and graduation fees, some withdraw from these time-honored rites of passage. When youth who have aged out of foster care discuss their experiences, they often share what it is like when a parent or caregiver is not there to attend important school events, particularly their high school graduation. Every year, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 young people exit the foster-care system, and many find it difficult to cope with the consequences of long and often unstable experiences living in and out of home placement. These young people tell stories of not wanting to form bonds with foster families or participate in the family’s social activities. Unlike their peers, youths in the system often are confronted with emotional, behavioral, developmental and health afflictions. To overcome these challenges, young people aging out of foster care need extra supports like economic security, stable housing upon discharge and access to health services. However, high unemployment rates, scarcity of jobs and the lack of affordable housing options put young people transitioning out of foster care at a significant disadvantage. Stepping up to the plate to help raise awareness and to give youths in foster care a voice is the National Foster Youth Advisory Council. Council members believe that with a solid discharge plan and a reliable support network, youths formerly in foster care can become thriving, productive and contributing members of their communities. Members of the National Foster Youth Advisory Council have developed a series of position statements to express their collective opinions about issues, like housing, education, permanency and peer mentoring, they believe are essential to successfully transition out of the foster-care system. The council believes all young people need and deserve: > opportunities to work closely with social workers to develop solid, effective transition plans; > information, resources and strategies that promote positive educational experiences; > compassionate, committed adults who are willing to be lifelong connections; > opportunities and resources that allow them to build a healthy peer support network; > safe, stable and affordable housing prior to discharge; > access to resources, services and financial supports that promote and support long-term success and positive housing outcomes; and > advocates who will support their needs and voice that all these things are connected. Fortunately, there are many young people who do not have to worry about where they are going to live or how much money they will have to earn to make this month’s rent, buy food, pay utilities or cover transportation costs. In fact, according to the 2000 Census, 4 million people ages 25 to 34 lived with their parents due to current economic realities. Unfortunately, many young people in foster care do not have the option of turning to their families for help. Instead, they have to figure out how to make ends meet on their own, even though events in their lives place them at an increased risk for experiencing adversity in the process. As with everyone, many facets of a youth’s life are connected, making it even more important to support them in all areas before and while they transition from foster care into adulthood. Let’s begin this spring by making a commitment to volunteer at your local foster-care agency or by participating in a mentoring program for youths in foster care to help bring hope for a brighter future to the thousands of youths who will age out of the system this year. The National Foster Youth Advisory Council, supported by the Child Welfare League of America and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, is a diverse, national group of current and former foster youths committed to providing a voice and making a difference in the lives of youths in foster care. For more information on this issue, visit http://www.cwla.org/programs/positiveyouth/default.htm. Source: ARA

Caption:
When youth who have aged out of foster care discuss their experiences, they often share what it is like when a parent or caregiver is not there to attend important school events, particularly their high school graduation. Without money for formal attire, transportation and graduation fees, some withdraw from these time-honored rites of passage.

Section:  HOME
Page:  1SH

Copyright (c) 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Record Number:  0010068365
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Getting older is not easy for youths in foster care

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