Foster Culture

October 23, 2007

Emancipation at 21

So here’s the thing…people who are under the age of 21 should not be emancipated from the foster care system. I don’t care if they think they are ready, I don’t care if they hate the programs, if they are on the run or anything. The fact is, people that age are jsut not ready to be out in the world completely alone.

Here’s an example of why, true story:

A young couple came to my work today seeking shelter, claiming that they were homeless. They were both 18 years old and did not have a place to sleep that night. Someone in my office sat them down with a resource book to call shelters around the area. There was nothing available to them that evening. The young man’s boss finally agreed to let them stay with him, but reluctantly so. I doubt when this young man asked to be emancipated that he had any clue that he would be homeless. Of course he thought he was going to have a place to stay. To make it worse, the girl that was with him mentioned that together they had 2 children and that both of them were deceased. WTF, who in their right mind thought that this was a person ready to be released into the world?

That kid had no idea that he was part of that 50% statistic.


October 17, 2007

Aging Out Stats

I just wanted to highlite a few of the statistics I have written in the margins.

50% of people that had been in foster care become homeless at some point in their lives.

30% of foster youth graduate from high school or obtain their GED before they are emancipated or age out of the foster care system.

I talked to a woman that runs a teen homeless street outreach program that told me that 30% of the youth they find living on the streets that they being to the youth shelter had been in foster care at some point in their lives.

These are just a few. I am personally very curious about the percentage of foster youth that receive disability services. I think we will find that a very high percent of foster youth having learning or behavioral disabilities and require special education services and vocational services. There’s more too, but I have to get off the computer now.

October 15, 2007

When Foster Care Ends

An article restating the facts about Aging Out Foster Youth and what they face. It is pretty clear that the symptom of the problem is becoming clear, but still no one addresses the issue of the young age at which foster youth are emancipated.

What happens when foster care ends?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
September 12, 2004
Special to the Post-Dispatch

Estimated printed pages: 3

“On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System” By Martha Shirk and Gary Stangler Published by Westview, 307 pages, $24.95 For most members of conventional society, foster children are out of sight, out of mind, even though there are hundreds of thousands of them across the nation. Almost without exception, foster children attain that status through no fault of their own, having been abused or neglected by their parents. Most foster children end up being moved again and again until they reach the age of majority — 18 in most states, 21 in a few. When reaching that age, foster children tend to be ill-prepared to live independently. They lack a loving support network, are usually without money, and many suffer from learning disabilities, mental illness or disorders leading to violent behavior. Martha Shirk is a journalist who has specialized in children and family issues for a couple of decades, much of it at the Post-Dispatch. Gary Stangler is former director of the Missouri Social Services Department, which exercises responsibility for foster children, and now executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, headquartered in Clayton. Together, Shirk and Stangler have written a searing book about one aspect of the foster-care mess — the older teenagers who age out of the system meant to protect their welfare. The bulk of the book is devoted to eight case studies, including the death by drowning of one-time foster child Reggie Kelsey at age 18 three years ago in Des Moines, Iowa. The child-welfare system had served Kelsey more or less well, given his learning disabilities and mental illness. But any semblance of effective service halted when Kelsey turned 18, despite his inability to negotiate life on his own. The other case studies are set in Lawrence, Kan.; Boston; Brooklyn; San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco; and Pembroke Pines, Fla. Those diverse locales show the national scope of the problem. Foster children end up in all sorts of situations after they age out, even when from the same family. Shirk and Stangler chronicle the story of Jermaine, Jeffrey and Lamar Williams, close-knit brothers from Brooklyn. After they were sent to a home for abused and neglected children, Lamar, the youngest, adjusted well. Jermaine and Jeffrey rebelled. Jermaine ended up dead at age 28 because of an accident related to a drug deal. Jeffrey ended up in prison for armed robbery. Lamar graduated from college, found a good-paying job, married and lives on Long Island. Casey-Jack Kitos of Lawrence, Kan., after aging out of the system, joined the military, but ended up with a medical discharge. He found a job at a service station paying just above minimum wage. He decided to save for a college education, but then backed away from that course. A municipal water department hired him, but a few weeks later fired him. He quit or lost other jobs quickly. As his chapter ends, Kitos is 21, holding a part-time job, trying college after all, but unsure whether he will graduate. Shirk and Stangler, assisted by a foreword from former President Jimmy Carter, suggest reforms in this book, which is part solid journalism, part advocacy. The only way to bring about true reform, however, is for many currently unengaged adults to open their hearts and their homes to children in need of assistance. All the money in the world devoted to social-service agencies (which, in the real world, are perpetually underfunded) cannot make much of a dent otherwise. ===================== Martha Shirk, Gary Stangler When: 7 p.m. Monday Where: Left Bank Books, 399 North Euclid Avenue How much: Free More info: 314-367-6731 or

Photo – “On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System”


Memo: Steve Weinberg is a freelance journalist in Columbia, Mo.

Edition: Five Star Lift
Section: A&E
Page: D10

Index Terms: book review

Copyright (c) 2004 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Record Number: 1000089873

OpenURL Article Bookmark (right click, and copy the link location):

What happens when foster care ends?


October 13, 2007


Although emancipation is the widely used term when describing a youth that will no longer be in states custody, a judge is technically lifting state jurisdiction of that child’s custody. Meaning that at 18 years old, a kid can be on their own without a guardian or supervision.

Imagine!!! 18! Without a guardian??? What gives? This is something about the system that NEEDS to be changed…take a look at some of those statistic in the margins. 50% of people that have been in foster care find themselves homeless at some point in their life. Visualize homeless, what comes to mind? For a lot of people that will look something like this: Dirty, dumpster diving, sleeping in parks, etc. Does this sound familiar? In truth, homeless people are also those that find themselves couch hopping, without a permanent address to put on a foodstamp application, having to sacrifice their personal safety and boundaries in order to make sure they have a place to rest their head. Maybe this sounds better than the image of the homeless living on skid row…but this is the first step, now imagine being 18 or 19 and this is the path your on. What hope does this person have? How does a kid climb their way out of the inevitable?

Now, I need to add one more factor into the mix. Teenage development. There sorta are 3 stages to teenage development, I say sorta cause everyone is different. The beginning, physically the body is beginning to show signs of puberty in girls, these signs are not as obvious in boys at first. Of course we know that at this point, social relationships are very important. The middle years when, we the adults, are just stupid, not just stupid, but the question of how we made it to adulthood in the first place may arise. Like, we are really dumb. Their friends are very important, in fact, sometimes this is their main motivation. It’s usually during the last stage that teens are beginning to realize that the adults in their life are not AS stupid as they originally thought, steps to maturity.

I believe it’s a well known fact that traumatic events that occur in one’s life during childhood will often delay the natural progression of mental development. This may be caused by abuse, witnessing abuse, drug or alcohol use, being moved into an uncomfortable unfamiliar environment, etc. All things that foster youth deal with. It only seems obvious to me that a possible delay in maturity should be considered when making the life altering decision of whether or not to release state jurisdiction over a youth in foster care.


R is 17 years old and has been “on the run” for 4 months. He has contacted his Childcare Manager and says that he will only come back into custody if he can go back to an old foster home. He is referring to a home that he lived in 4 years ago and was moved from because of behavioral challenges that the foster mother felt like she could not handle. His case manager explains that that is not an option, but if he works a program at a residential treatment center, he will probably qualify to go into an Independent Living Home. He says that he doesn’t want to work “a program” that this is his life and he doesn’t deserve to be an inmate or some strangers project.

This is a typical scenario among older foster youth. They want things their way, right away. This attitude is also typical of an adolescent in middle development…but of course, we are not talking about typical teens either. First of all, although this kid is about 171/2, developmentally he is really like that of a 14 or 15 year old. He is rebelling typical of his development age and rebelling typically like that of a person who has suffered great traumatic events in life.

It is about the age of 19 or 20 that people begin to realize that they do not know EVERYTHING and maybe it would be good to take some advise or let an adult help.

But for the kid that was “emancipated” at the age of 18, it will be too late before they surpass these important life milestones

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