“My emotional health has been really impacted during the pandemic. I have to pay for professional support out of pocket; I’ve been choosing that over having enough food.”
I’m a 25-year old who spent 2 years in foster care. I’ve been taking care of myself and two of my siblings during this pandemic. I’m working 2 jobs, going to school, and trying to make ends meet. I’m trying to invest in my future, which is hard to do without a stable support network.
Although it’s been 7 years since I exited foster care, I’m still facing challenges in finding my stability as a young adult. I thought I was doing ok until the pandemic hit; now everything’s been pulled out from under me. I’ve been covering costs using my credit card, which is close to maxing out. My car insurance is due; without it, I can’t get to work. I’m worried about covering what I need now, and what the impact will be on my credit long-term. On top of that, my mental and emotional health has been heavily impacted; I’ve been paying for mental health care out of pocket and often choosing that over groceries. Not having enough food is causing more challenges for me and my siblings; although we’re vaccinated, we’ve been getting sick quite frequently. I think this is a result of not having enough food, especially nutritious food.
I found out that Idaho was offering pandemic relief to young people like me who had experienced foster care through the Supporting Foster Youth & Families through the Pandemic Act. So, I called. The process of applying was incredibly stressful; I was really nervous that I wouldn’t receive support. I had to keep reaching out to make sure they had everything that was needed. It took several days to be approved. Finally, I was approved on September 30th - the last day that I was eligible to receive the assistance. I haven’t yet received the check being mailed to me.
As I worry about keeping my siblings and myself fed, getting to work and taking care of my mental health, I’m also worried about my peers who exited foster care and aren’t connected to the child welfare agency. If it took me this long to learn about the aid - even though I’m involved with improving the foster care system, I know there’s hundreds of other young people who may not have known that they were eligible. I also know the process wasn’t easy to navigate for me; other youth may not understand how to access the support.
When the check arrived, I felt like I had a little hope. I want other young people to have that hope.
To Congress: young people everywhere are struggling. I know young people from foster care who don’t have a support network of people they can rely on are going to be the last to recover. It’s scary to transition from foster care at any point; it’s even more scary to do it during a pandemic when finding stability is even harder. I know if we invest in our young people now; they will be set up for success in work, school and their lives. Will you make sure we aren’t left behind?
Written by a lived experience leader from Idaho who wished to remain anonymous.