“Aging out” refers to what happens when youth reach a certain age (age 18 in most states) and are no longer eligible for support from the foster care system. Without foster care funding, many youth lose their place to live, health care coverage, connections to supportive adults, and are ill-prepared to support themselves in the adult world.
“I turned 18 a month before I graduated from high school. The day after graduation, I was kicked out of my foster home, where I had been living for two years. I was 18, a high school graduate on my way to college in the fall, and I was homeless.” -- NICOLE, former foster youth.
In 2005, more than 24,000 youth aged out of the foster care system at the age of 18 without connection to a family. This is an alarming statistic, and even though the overall number of children in foster care is decreasing, the number of youth who age-out of the system continues to grow each year. "Imagine being 18 and on your own with little help from family and friends. If you make a mistake the consequences can be drastic" reports a former foster youth and FosterClub member. Foster youth aging out of the system have many obstacles and hurdles to overcome, many details about living as an adult yet to learn. Yet most foster youth have no solid relationships with family or other adults at this critical time in their lives, no caring adult they can count on for guidance and support Statistics demonstrate poor outcomes for youth that have aged out of the foster care system.
- One in four will be incarcerated within the first two years after they leave the system.
- Over one-fifth will become homeless at some time after age 18.3
- Approximately 58 percent had a high school degree at age 19, compared to 87 percent of a national comparison group of non-foster youth.
- Of youth who aged out of foster care and are over the age of 25, less than 3 percent earned their college degrees, compared with 28 percent of the general population.
Although the statics show gloomy outcomes, as a foster youth in your teens, you do not have to be a statistic. The Independent Living Program is designed to help young people in care to prepare for the transition to adulthood. Programs in each state are a little different, but usually you can receive life skills training, help with moving into your first apartment, money for higher education, and mentoring. Youth should begin Independent Living Programs beginning around age 15.
In 1999, the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act provided guidelines and funding to help improve services to youth who transition out of the foster care system. More funding became available from the federal government through Chafee Education and Training Vouchers, designed to support higher education. In 2008, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increased Adoptions Act requires every youth have a transition plan and allows federal funds to provide services to youth until age 21.
“Having family helps with identity formation, a sense of belonging, and the security of knowing that no matter what, you will always have a place to go. Having family to care about them can be the single most healing experience for many youth in foster care.” -- SARAH GREENBLATT, Casey Family Services
Foster youth report that being connected with a supportive adult really makes a huge difference when aging out. Having a caring and supportive adult to rely on in tough times, to provide help with basic life skills such as job searches, to provide encouragement to succeed, a home for the holidays, etc.
“They were like, ‘You’re 16. You’re going to go off to college in a couple of years, why do you want a family?’ It’s about my entire life, it’s not just about my childhood. I want to know that I’m going to have a place to come home to during Christmas breaks. I want to know that I’m going to have a dad to walk me down the aisle. That I’m going to have grandparents for my children.” -- Mary, Former foster youth, Tennessee
STORIES WRITTEN BY YOUTH ABOUT AGING OUT How Party Boy Cleaned Up His Act Here Linda R write about about John Micheals' experience aging out and provided by Youth Communications, this story explores what can happen. click to read...
STORIES WRITTEN BY YOUNG LEADERS ABOUT AGING OUT
2004 All-Star Sharde Armstrong gives here perspective as a college graduate: "As college students arrive at school and prepare to start the new academic year, I am reminded of the painful, bittersweet occasions that I – a young person who has aged out of foster care and who recently graduated from college – have experienced." read more here...
On their Own: A New Home The following story is taken from the book On Their Own, written by Martha Shirk and Gary Stanglera that tells the story of what happens to kids when they age out of the foster care system. This is part of the story of Casey-Jack, who spent 5 years in the foster care system. Click to read more...
On Their Own: Monica's Story Here's another story from the book On Their Own, written by Martha Shirk and Gary Stanglera that tells the story of what happens to kids when they age out of the foster care system. The following segment is from the story of Monica, in foster care since age 8 because of her mother's abuse and neglect. Click to read more...
QUESTIONS + ANSWERS
Leaving Foster Care Questions and Answers Page The page contains frequently asked questions about leaving foster care Click to read more...
POSITION PAPERS ABOUT AGING OUT
NFYAC’s Top 10 Recommendations for Ensuring Every Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Has a Place to Call Home provides some great suggestions on ensuring that young aging out find safe, stable, and affordable housing Click to read more...
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