Are Foster Children Ready to be on their Own?

At 18 years old, are foster children who have aged out of the system, ready to be on their own?

More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year. Some but not many end up going to a institution to further their education. Some end up in jail due to a life of crime because they are unable to provide of themselves or their family. Most ended up homeless, hooked on drug or sold into a life of prostitution or dead. Given this and information to come, one should wonder if foster kids who aged out of the system are ready to be on their own?

Higher education

From a very young age children were taught that education was important, that it is was a necessity to be accomplished in life, yet there is a large sum of the children who lack the resources to receive a proper education. In most cases the foster care system does not allow children to stay in one place for too long. When a child constantly has to change neighborhoods and schools it often makes it difficult for them to maintain relationships and educational achievement. Compared to others their age, they are less likely to have opportunities for tutoring, advanced placement classes, or extracurricular activities that could support their educational development. This will cause a lack of preparation for independent living, time management, and study skills. Unfortunately, approximately 1 in 4 kids who age out of the system will not be able to graduate from high school. Of those who do graduate, only 70% want to continue their education and of those only 39% enroll in a two or four year school. A large factor that plays into considering going to a 2- or 4-year institution is money. Children who grow up in an unstable environment/s don’t have the financial support or the knowledge of places that could possibly help then in furthering their education.

Homeless

Unfortunately, almost 40% of the homeless in the US are under the age of 18. After reaching 18, 20% of the youth who were in the system will instantly become homeless. There are approximately 400,000 kids who are currently in foster care in the US and about 20,000 of those kids age-out each year without any support or family connection. Young people who are parents or has a history of homelessness were almost twice as likely to become homeless. If they were African American, they were 1.8 times more likely and if they had more than one foster care placement or had been in juvenile rehabilitation they were 1.5 times more likely to become homeless. Because they are unprepared to live independently and have limited education, 50% of the young people aging out of the foster and juvenile justice systems will be out on streets within six months. In the United States, as many as 20,000 kids are forced into prostitution and 5,000 kids who live alone die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide.

Drugs

In today’s society it is common among youth to use drug as a form of “fitting in or trying to belonging to a group. It is also used as a coping mechanism for some kids who grow up in the system. In the year 2016, about 92,000 children were removed from their home and put into the foster care because at least one parent had a drug abuse issue. Studies show that children whose biological parents use drugs and alcohol have a tendency to grow up angry, resentful, or with a lack of respect for authority figures and become users themselves. By today’s standards, 1 out of every 2 kids who age out of foster care will develop a substance dependence. Unfortunately, up to 80 percent of children in foster care have significant mental health issues caused by growing up in situations of trauma, frequently changing environments , broken homes, insufficient access to mental health services and over prescribed psychotropic medications. Psychotropic medication is used to treat children in foster care with behavioral and mental health problems. These commonly include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants.

Suicide

When children are taken from there home and are constantly moving from place to place it often leads to a sense of helplessness, like there’s no other way. The World Health Organization reports that every 40 seconds a person commits suicide. Suicide is one of the three leading causes of death for young people under 25 worldwide and 15- to 24-year-olds in the US. For a foster child your options are very limited and your life is always in the hands of a stranger, therefore some feel they have no control or say in their own lives. Kids who had been in foster care are almost two and a half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than other children. They were also about four times more likely to have attempted it.

What’s wrong with the system?

Both news articles and popular tv shows (such as The Fosters) agree that people are not fully aware of the situation that so many young people of forced to face everyday and this is due to the fact that there isn’t as much recruitment for adoptive families as there should be. The base of what they were say was that people need to know and understand the complex situation that these children are forced to live with. Only with that knowledge can they stand up help those really need it.  There are approximately 642000 people employed as a Social Workers in the U.S but there are far to many children ending up in unfit homes and/or on the streets for that to be enough. We need more people and more resources so that they can make sure these kids find a safe environment they can call home. Funding for programs such a these often become an afterthought, therefore there isn’t enough resources to make sure the children are ending up in safe environments. There needs to be more money put in so that the children can have better access to resources, education and mental health services. For any child growing up in a stable home with their biological parents, 18 isn’t old enough for them to be completely independent, so it shouldn’t be expected for thoses who don’t have half the connections, the resources and stability.

Sources

  1. Barnow, B., Buck, A., O’Brien, K., Pecora, P., Ellis, M., & Steiner, E. (2015). Child and Family Social Work, 20(2), 159170.
  2. Brock, T. (2010). The Future of Children, 20(1), 109132
  3. Burns, B. J., Phillips, S. D., Wagner, H. R., Barth, R. P., Kolko, D. J., Campbell, Y., & Landsverk, J. (2004). Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 43(8), 960970.
  4. Day, A., Dworsky, A., Fogarty, K., & Damashek, A. (2011). Children and Youth Services Review, 33(11), 23352341.
  5. Pecora, P. J., Williams, J., Kessler, R. C., Hiripi, E., O’Brien, K., Emerson, J., … Torres, D. (2006). Child & Family Social Work, 11(3), 220231.
  6. Megan Hayes Piel (2018). Challenges in the Transition to Higher Education for Foster Care Youth
  7. SYDNEY GREENE (2018). For girls in the Texas foster care system, teen pregnancy is 5 times more likely
  8. Ncsl (2016). MENTAL HEALTH AND FOSTER CARE
  9. Shalita O’Neale(2018). Foster Care and Homelessness.
  10. Covenant House(2018). Teen Homelessness Statistics
  11. National foster youth institute(2017). 51 Useful Aging Out of Foster Care Statistics | Social Race Media
  12. NAEH(2015). Foster Youth and Homelessness: What are the Risk Factors?
  13. net(2018). The Impact of Drug and Alcohol Addiction on the Foster Care System
  14. Helen Ramaglia(2013). Suicide and the Foster Child.
  15. John DeGarmo The Truth About Suicide and Children in Foster Care Theconversation.com(2016). The hidden harms of the US foster-care system
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