What are youth aging out of foster care up against?
Statistics show young people who have been in foster care may face additional challenges as they navigate adulthood. They may be less likely to get a high school diploma, G.E.D. or college degree. They may face periods of homelessness, have more experience with the criminal justice system, be unemployed — or under-employed, making too little to live on or not getting enough hours to qualify for job-provided benefits. The chances for an unwanted pregnancy are higher, too.
We know there are numerous factors behind these hurdles to a successful transition.
Many young people in care have suffered physical abuse and emotional trauma. As children, they may have faced:
- exposure to alcohol and other drugs (including in utero)
- parental abuse, neglect and abandonment
- violence in their homes and communities
- separation from birth families
Frequent foster placement moves often mean losing touch with friends, teachers, mentors, even siblings. Loss of relationships can disrupt emotional development, further impacting a foster child’s ability to thrive once they’re on their own.
Additionally, because foster care comes with its own policies, restrictions and stigma, older children often miss out on typical childhood experiences. This might include having a summer job, sleepovers at a friend’s home, getting a driver’s license, participating in sports, school trips and extracurricular activities or going on family vacations.
Scheduling difficulties and liability concerns can end up cheating foster youth out of normalcy — contributing to a sense of loss before they’ve had a chance to be independent.
Landlords usually require proof of employment, good credit, and first and last month’s rent. A young “adult” just out of foster care is lucky to have someone’s couch to sleep on.