Approximately 20,000 youth age out of foster care every year. I’ve thought a lot about this issue because I came to know a great young girl who was in foster care that really touched my life.
Toni came into my life through work. She was on a school-work program her senior year and pretty much shadowed me during her time there. I learned a lot about her. Toni was a straight A+ student in advanced placement courses at our local high school and was being recruited by some of our nations top universities for academic scholarship opportunities. So, as you can imagine, I was sadly surprised when she confided in me that she was in foster care. I thought…”foster care kids don’t excel like this, they are usually prone to being trouble makers and education of all things is the last thing on their minds. What’s on their minds is survival of the fittest.” Well, some of those preconceived notions might be true (according to statistics) but Toni was different. Toni was an all American girl
Toni, like many other young adults in foster care, was shuffled around a lot between foster homes. Toni’s bio mom made her a ward of the state when a boyfriend of her mother’s molested her. Knowing she was coming up on her 18th birthday, and graduating high school, Toni often confided in me about her fears of aging out of foster care. Although she was shuffled around, she was afraid of being alone. Toni’s queries about aging out made me curious so I began to research.
According to the Child Welfare League of America, an estimated 20-25,000 youth age out each year finding themselves with no stability or family base. many turn to the streets because they are unable to meet their own needs. These youth also face problems like homelessness, substance abuse, early parenting and, unfortunately, incarceration. These youth most times have no direction and therefore gravitate to the life of easy money because they find it extra hard to find employment as well.
In my opinion, no young adult should “age out” of foster care. Of course, that goes without saying that it’s obvious that a person cannot stay in the system forever, but certainly, provisions should be made for them to acquire post-secondary educational/vocational, life skill training, etc. When they are released to begin their lives at 18, instead of just giving them the proverbial $200 in cash and setting them out on their way, they should provide them with the necessary tools to help them succeed in life.
After graduation, I lost track of Toni. Someone told me she decided to go into the military. Good for her, I thought. However, I quickly reminded myself that Toni was alone, at 18, her worst fear realized, so she joined the military to find connections in life. Connections that may not be her own but connections nonetheless.
TMF readers, are you a former child that aged out of foster care? If so, we would love to hear your story. Whether your experience is a bad one or a good one, we would love to learn more from a personal perspective.
Peace & Blessings,