Every day in America a teenager turns 18 years old - Foster Care introduction. For some it means a new car, freedom, or the excitement of no longer needing your parents’ permission on serious decisions. For others its dreadful turning 18 because means that they have “aged out” of the foster care system with no afterward plans or support. Each year it is estimated that 20,000 young people age out and this is tragic because they have no one to turn to, they have no home to go to and they are forced into adulthood before they are mentally/physically ready and they still need assistance.
In the governments eyes being 18 means there able to get a full time job, own a house or car… Their legal, so what do they kids need us for? We have other kids to worry about also. But how could these kids possibly be able to face the real world when most of their lives, have been consumed of trauma and distress, dependent on a system that can sometimes have them from home to home or with a parent who doesn’t truly care for them. Once out of the foster care they end up homeless since shelters can only get you so far, no guarantee on their next meal, no health care because of insufficient money or lack of insurance, or little to no clothes.
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In 2009 it was reported that after leaving 54% earned a high school diploma, 2% obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher, 84% became a parent, 51% were unemployed, 30% had no health insurance, 25% had been homeless, and 30% were receiving public assistance. There aren’t too many programs around that help our teenagers’ in foster care transition from being cared for to caring for themselves. It is the foster parents responsibility to prepare the children to leave foster care. Penns Senator LeAnna Washington says “The issue [of aging out] needs to be addressed earlier on so that the foster child can start to prepare,” she says.
“Otherwise, when the child turns 18, they may come home from school and their foster mother might tell them, without the funding, they can’t stay there any longer. They haven’t been prepared for the aging out process and suddenly that security blanket is gone. What do they do? Many might turn to drugs or to the street. What do you do when suddenly you’re lost in the atmosphere feeling like nobody cares about you or your well-being any longer? ” Debra Schilling Wolfe, executive director of the Field Center, says this lack of emotional connection—the sense of being cared about—may be one of the hardest aspects to handle for foster youths
who are aging out of the system. “Imagine if you will that your birthday came and went and nobody even wished you a happy birthday,” she says. “That’s what many of these kids experience. The system provides them with physical and emotional support but only until they’re 18—or in some states 21—and then they wash their hands of them. You can’t pay somebody to care about you. ” Studies have shown that while traditional preparation would be to focus on skill building, their most important attribute needed to succeed is learning to build relationships.
Its important for them to have a caring adult figure in their lives so that they don’t have to turn to other methods to self sooth. As the people we all should understand that these kids are our future and it is up to us to help raise awareness and make positive changes in our communities like finding way to shorten the time spent in foster care, take better care of the kids’ health so it will not lead to a life-long of mental distress, let them voice their concerns and bring attention to unseen issues.
Turning our backs on those who need us the most is not an option. We should work together to find ways to develop more group home designed specifically for these teens and donate money to other group homes or foundations to help keep them up, running, and standing strong for those in need. Thank you all for coming, listening and supporting. Have a good evening.