A shockingly high number of 58,635 teenagers aged 16-20 were recorded in the foster care system in 2019. This is particularly alarming because teens at this age are usually not considered for adoption in the system and simply disappear in the background. That is until they turn 18- that is when they are expected to move out of foster care and fend for themselves.
So, what can be done to ease their transition into the world beyond? We consulted with experts in the subject matter and gathered some practical steps that can aid teens aging out of foster care.
“As teenagers ‘age out’ of foster care, many remain in need of a place to live, stable income, and means of transportation. Despite the common societal expectation for children to become completely independent as soon as they turn eighteen, showing support is essential to a seamless transition into adulthood.” says Mike Powell, “If you are helping a child ‘age out’ of foster care, the following are a few ways to demonstrate support;
Become a Financial Mentor
“Mentorship is an excellent way to provide valuable life skills for youths who may not be financially literate. You can teach them the importance of saving and help facilitate the opening of their first bank account. If you have the flexibility for it, you can also provide a weekly or monthly allowance. Budgeting is a crucial life skill youths need to secure a stable future.” (Mike Powell)
Provide Employment Opportunities
“Promoting local industries and encouraging entrepreneurship can help prevent youth unemployment. You can connect your foster child to local counselors, professors, and ministers or integrate them into non-profit organizations within your community.” (Mike Powell)
Offer Low-Cost Housing
“If you have a spare property, consider leasing it out to your foster child at a low cost. Doing so can teach them the value of real estate and how to maintain a home. Upon graduation, you can gift them with furniture or take them home shopping.” (Mike Powell)
Adopt a Companion
“Nothing is more emotionally uplifting than a canine companion! Plus, there is no better way to demonstrate responsibility than by caring for a pet. Dogs can help enrich an individual as well as combat feelings of stress and anxiety.
“Ultimately, age is just a number. As much as we’d like to believe teenagers become adults as they turn eighteen, it isn’t the case- even more so for foster children. By lending a helping hand, their transition into the real world is that much easier.”
Mike Powell, Founder of Dog Embassy
Implement a Comprehensive Biopsychosocial Plan
“In order for foster children to successfully transition out of the foster care system, a comprehensive biopsychosocial plan must be implemented. Linkage to proper medical care, professional mental health services if needed, and community support such as housing, food, and employment are all needed. In addition, foster children would benefit from linkage to social/spiritual support. Consistent social support can be conducive to overall biopsychosocial wellness and community integration.”
Keischa Pruden, Owner/Therapist, Pruden Counseling Concepts
“Helping foster children is a boon for both the child and those who share a helping hand. There are various ways through which you can get involved with the teens aging out of foster care.” says Miranda Yan, “Helping foster care teens when they grow out of their foster home can become easier with the following steps:
“Providing them with the resources that you could share to help them deal with their new life ahead. For example, sharing your home, study space, providing books and pens, fees for schooling. Try to donate to emergency funding organizations at a nearby location, that certainly helps the teens to cover unexpected expenses.” (Miranda Yan)
Help them pursue their career options through effective guidance on real-life choices.
Becoming a mentor for them to guide them through what is right and wrong for their future and help them pursue the right path/career.”
Miranda Yan, Co-Founder of VinPit
“There are several things teens in foster care, who are at risk of aging out, need, including:
“Stable adult and community connections” (Allison Mahoney)
“An education that prepares them for a career and to earn a living.” (Allison Mahoney)
Housing and Medical
“Stable housing and medical insurance when they exit care.” (Allison Mahoney)
“Any necessary mental or behavioral health treatment.
“We often hear about independent living skills, which child welfare systems are required to offer youth who are 16 years of age and older. Independent living skills programs are designed to prepare youth for adulthood and to live on their own (for instance, to help them understand how to open a bank account and budget).”
“However, many of those services are ineffective, of poor quality, or not offered to youth. Of all the items I listed above, I think having adult and human connections is perhaps the most critical support for youth who are aging out. Many older teens reside in congregate care facilities (group homes, emergency shelters, or residential treatment centers), rather than family-like settings, and therefore miss out on the opportunity to truly develop relationships with people who could mentor and be there for them in times of need.”
Allison Mahoney, Lawyer at Estorie Agency. Allison has represented children in foster care.