It’s hard turning 18 or 21 — moving out, finding a job, going to college…
But many foster children have to do it by themselves, without the lifeline to parents and home that helps many teens ease into independence.
When children are abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or when parents’ own difficulties (such as drug addiction, mental illness, and incarceration) leave them unable to provide adequate care, other relatives often step in. If no family members are able to take in these children, a court often places them in the care of other families or in institutions. And so, they enter the foster care system.
A highly vulnerable population, many of these children who enter foster care have emotional, behavioral, developmental, and health problems that reflect the difficult family and environmental circumstances that caused them to be removed from their homes in the first place. Most of the children in foster care return to their families or are adopted (often by their foster parents), but not all. Approximately 25,000 of the oldest children leave foster care – or “age out” in the language of child protective services – and many are consequently pretty much on their own.
If foster children, in general, are a population at risk, youth who age out of the system may be even more so. Research suggests that without the extended support most families provide young people in the transition to adulthood, youth leaving foster care face enormous challenges in building successful lives. They are less well prepared educationally, have a harder time embarking on a productive career, are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to be involved with the legal system. However, it is worth recalling that many of the problems evidenced by foster children have their roots in experiences that occurred before they entered the foster care system.
This page offers you a variety of links and multimedia resources to explore this issue further on your own – or connect with others doing the work.
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. – Henry Ford
Statistics Do Not Have to be Written in Stone…
But They Do Tell Us a Story…
The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP), Title I of the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, provides funds to states to assist youth and young adults (up to age 21) in the foster care component of the child welfare system make a smoother, more successful transition to adulthood. This fairly recent program replaces and expands the Social Security Act and allows states to use these funds for a broader array of services to youth “aging out” of the foster care system, including room and board.
Most importantly, the Chafee program enables states to expand the scope and improve the quality of educational, vocational, practical, and emotional supports in their programs for adolescents in foster care and for young adults who have recently left foster care.
Video Story: Independent Living: Aging out of Foster Care
Transition to Independent Living: Aging Out of Foster Care in Palm Beach County, Florida
The Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civic Engagement worked with Dr. Ann Faraone and a dedicated group of agencies, institutions, and organizations in Palm Beach County, Florida to review the research, trends, resource usage, and data to provide a comprehensive gap analysis on this issue. The gap analysis was reported to the community on October 17, 2011, and a recommendation was made to implement a holistic model to support the aging out process of our community’s group home foster youth, including these core areas: