Foster Culture

February 17, 2008

In preparation

I’m writing this in response to the comment I copied below:

“What were your main concerns were after leaving the foster care system? I work with kids in the FCS, and am interested on how best to prepare them for emancipation.”

I think there is a lot of information about preparing youth for independent living that social service organizations are putting to pretty good use. Those skills such as finding and keeping a job, using public transportation, budgeting and being resourceful are all very important.

The biggest problem with all this, in my opinion, is that a lot of the youth needing to learn these skills are more interested in their friends and social life. All the rest is secondary to them, especially youth in foster care. Since they often do not have a family structure as a support system, they rely on their friends for this, which of course is typical for a teenager, but this is a little more to the extreme.

Even when I after emancipation, I was still pretty immature, so putting my ILP skills to youth was still not as important. What I did was find a group of peers that were also considered “social misfits”and we all worked together (in a family structure) to survive, not always through legal means I might add.

Being in foster care gave me two very important survival skills for this time period in my life, 1.I was used to and comfortable with relying on other that I barely knew for help and resources, yet had good instinct about who was and was not trustworthy and 2.The knowledge that I could skip out on this group of “friends” anytime I needed to, ie. wasn’t getting  my needs met, felt uncomfortable or thought there was something better out there (the grass is always greener).

If any adult working with young people in foster care think back to their young adulthood, try to remember the moments you called your folks for help with bills, ride, food, laundry, anything. Create a foster youth canon text for your foster youth aging out, make sure they have the telephone number of every library, neighborhood center, youth outreach program, employment search out there. If you are the type of adult that gets really involved, give them numbers to reach you. You might get a phone call two years down the road from an emancipated foster youth needing a ride to a job interview and they can;t take the bus cause it’s raining, or help trying to understand how to buy a car or whatever.

There are certain thing we can prepare any young person for, but it’s not until they are there themselves that they’ll truly understand what the point of all that training was for and it’s about that time that they’ll realize they don’t actually know everything.

In each of these foster youth canon texts, along with community resources include their birth certificate, social security cards, family health history, transcripts, court document proving that they are independent  persons, immunization records, old tax documents, street guides (teach them how to use it), the name all the the free health clinics, a copy of their most important medical records…anything you can think of that they might/will need as a young adult in this society.

Teaching them to organize themselves is important, but a small plastic file folder/separator thing that they can throw their bills into. I know that I wasn’t nor did I care to be organized until I was in my mid 20’s.

These are just a few things that would have been good for me to have around, but really, even in all my rebellion, knowing that someone would still be there for me no matter what was what I needed…all the material thing I mentioned sure would have helped a lot too, might’ve even kept me out of come trouble. Hope that helps someone.

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