Being placed in a foster home is bad enough for a foster child. Sadly, for far too many foster children, leaving the foster care system is even more traumatic. As a foster child reaches the age of 18, in most states, the child “ages out” of the foster system, and begins the transition into “the real world.” Each year, between 20,000 to 25,000 foster children age out of the system and attempt to begin life on their own. Of the roughly 450,000 children in care in the United States each year, this is a large number and disturbing percentage.
For many foster children, foster care is a temporary service before returning home to a parent, moving in with a biological family member, or even beginning a new life in an adopted home. Yet, for thousands who do not find reunification with family in their lives, reaching 18 years of age can be a tremendously frightening experience. For others, 21 is the year where they may find themselves no longer part of the foster care system, depending upon the state the foster children reside in.
For most young adults leaving home for the first time, they have someone to rely on when facing challenges, difficulties, and trials. Whether the problems are financial, emotional, school oriented, or simply a flat tire that needs to be fixed, most young adults can pick up a phone and call an adult who is quick to help. Foster children who age out of the system many times do not have this type of support, no one to call; no one who can come to their aid. Foster children who age out of the system face an array of problems and challenges.
Too often, these children have already faced such hardships as neglect, abuse, learning disabilities, and abandonment. Along with this, the majority of foster children have difficulties with school, with over fifty percent of those who age out dropping out of school. Indeed, only two percent of all foster children who age out graduate from college. Lack of financial skills, work experiences, social skills, and various forms of training, along with the lack of support from family and caring adults makes it even more problematic.
In reality, so few are willing to help, and the future is a very bleak and tragic one for these youth, indeed.
Yet, the truth is, you can help. You can help a teen leaving foster care.
Here are 15 ways you can help a youth who has aged out of foster care.
1. Become an after school/college tutor.
2. Donate school supplies to local foster care agencies.
3. Develop a college and scholarship fund.
4. Teach youth money skills and the importance of saving.
5. Help youth open up a bank account.
6. Donate household goods to local foster care agency.
7. Donate furniture and clothing to local foster care agency.
8. Teach youth importance of good health and hygiene.
9. Show former foster youth how to read food labels, and how to choose fresh and nutritional food.
10. Teach youth how to cook and prepare a variety of healthy meals, and the importance of a good diet.
11. Be a transport/driver to youth who have aged out, driving them to job interviews, doctor appointments, etc.
12. If you own a business, give discounts on services and goods.
13. If you own a business, consider hiring former foster youth, and train them with skills.
14. Be a mentor, teaching them important social and communication skills.
15. Be a friend, willing to listen and willing to help.
Photo: Getty Images
While the suggestions are great, I’m not sure how to actually get to the kids that need help. I would love to hold classes at the library or local community center to help some kids out but I have no idea how to get in touch with the kids that need help. I feel like there should be a way to connect some of these kids and maybe form groups where they build their own “families”. I think a lot can be done but no clue where to start.
Try your County Department of Social Service for Foster Care Placement Centers or the local schools
These suggestions are all good and needed. It’s too bad that most foster parents do not seem to teach these skills while a child/teen is in their care. Would you allow your biological child to go into adulthood unarmed? We always tried to add such practical skill during whatever time they were in our home.
These suggestions are too vague. If someone wanted to help they would have no clue where to get started. I’m quite sure agencies have little in place when a volunteer calls to help teens aging out.
If you want to help these teens, create programs that reach the public and provide structure for those willing to volunteer. This system is too broken to fix.
I, too, would like to see some of these expanded. However, donating the items listed is something anyone can do.
You can contact the Department of Social Services for local placement centers or your local school to catch the foster youth before exiting the foster care system
We do all 15 and more we have some housing need more.we need a lot of help
Some great suggestions! Because so many kids are bounced around from home to home, we take for granted what they didn’t learn about life in general and how to manage every day tasks.
How to connect to local agencies???