I aged out of care at the age of 19.
One of the biggest struggles I faced after exiting foster care was figuring out what to do with my spare time. I know it sounds odd, but I just spent the last 3 years of my life with very little, if any, ability to dictate my own schedule. The different check ups, appointments, visits, and court hearings were all scheduled for me - I learned to just “go with the flow.” At first I loved not having anybody check up on me. I felt so free. Not long after, though, that freedom turned to loneliness, and sometimes, even fear. I didn’t know what I wanted for myself and trying to figure it out on your own can be hard, especially when you don’t have a support system to lean on. Being involved in the planning and decision making process well before you transition out will help give you a say in what you want to do with your independence.
Another problem I faced after being on my own was no longer being qualified for resources because I was now “too old” to receive them. I remember learning about all of the educational and housing benefits and thinking just how far into the future college seemed. Things such as healthcare, insurance, and taxes are things you don’t think about until you need them, or they are all of the sudden brought to your attention. By the time I started asking questions about what I could receive help on; it was usually too late. Don’t put off your future; take advantage of the support and resources before you leave care.
The last thing I would share is the lack of preparation on dealing with family; that being foster family, adopted family, or biological family. I struggled, and continue to struggle, with how to balance the relationships I have with my bio-family and my foster parents. There is always a sense of guilt that I don’t spend enough time with, or make enough of an effort towards, my bio-family and then there is a feeling of not being appreciative and grateful for all that my foster parents did for me. NOBODY ever talked to me about that, let alone helped me prepare for it.
I owe a lot of my success in life to my Transition Support Team I had while I was exiting foster care. They placed emphasis on education, making sure that I was on track to graduate high school and completing all the necessary steps for me to continue my education after high school, if I so chose. There were also classes and workshops that I attended which focused on teaching “basic” life skills such as: cooking, budgeting, finding housing, car maintenance, etc. I have benefited a lot from having participated in those classes, but I still feel there are a few things that I could have been better prepared for.