May is recognized as National Foster Care Awareness Month and May 31st is National Foster Care Awareness Day, a time to raise awareness and advocate for the millions of children and youth in foster care systems nationwide. While foster care plays a vital role in providing temporary homes and support to children in need, it is crucial to shed light on the significant challenges faced by youth aging out of foster care.
Each year, approximately 20,000 young adults “age out” of the foster care system in the United States. These individuals reach the age of majority, typically 18 or 21, depending on the state, and are expected to transition into adulthood without the support of a permanent family or caregiver. Suddenly, these young adults are expected to jump into adulthood without anyone to call for support or guidance or a home to visit after a bad week or to celebrate with when they get their first interview or an A in their first college class.
Here are some of the challenges faced by former foster care youth:
One of the most significant hurdles for youth aging out of foster care is education. Only about 50% of them graduate from high school, compared to the national average of approximately 84%. The lack of a stable school experience and frequent school changes experienced by foster youth contribute to these lower graduation rates. Limited financial resources and lack of guidance also limit their higher education, vocational training, and career prospects.
Employment and Financial Struggles:
Many young adults who have aged out of foster care face significant challenges when it comes to finding stable employment. Only around 50% are employed by their mid-20s. The lack of a consistent support system, limited job skills, and insufficient job placement services contribute to their difficulties in securing employment. This is one of the factors that lead to one in five youth who have aged out of foster care becoming homeless.
Mental Health Concerns:
Studies show that youth who age out of foster care have higher rates of mental health issues compared to their peers. They may struggle with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other related conditions due to the trauma and instability they experienced during their time in foster care. The lack of stable relationships and emotional support adds to these challenges.
Involvement in the Justice System:
The lack of support and guidance after aging out of foster care increases the risk of involvement in the justice system. A significant percentage of individuals who have aged out of foster care experience incarceration or have a criminal record due to the challenges they face in transitioning to independent adulthood. This cycle of involvement with the justice system further compounds the difficulties they encounter in building a stable and productive life.
These statistics seem hopeless and grim, but at Connections Homes, we offer hope and we tell a different story. We have loving, supportive mentors that offer our young adults caring, stable relationships. Our mentors offer guidance, support, and someone to call or go home to on good days and bad.
Once matched through Connections Homes, less than 1% of boys have any interaction with the law and 93% of our youth are working on completing their education and 53% are pursuing post-secondary or skilled trades. Connection makes a difference.
If you want to make a difference in the life of young adults that have aged out of foster care. Connections Homes is hosting a two-day, virtual Connections HomesComing event, which provides an opportunity for the community to come together and support youth in their journey toward independence. Connections HomesComing celebrates the accomplishments of former foster youth, while also raising awareness about the ongoing need for support and resources.
To learn more about the event and how you can get involved, visit our website. Together, we can offer hope and make a difference in the lives of these resilient young individuals and help them thrive as they transition into adulthood.
Author: Pam Parish