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Preparing Teens for the Future


eing placed in a foster home is bad enough for a child. Sadly, for far too many children, leaving the foster care

system is even more traumatic. As a foster child reaches 18, in most states, the child “ages out” of the foster system, and begins the transition into “the real world.”

Eighteen years old is a difficult time for any teenager. Sure, it is a time of independence, freedom and change; at least it is in the eyes of many when they reach that magic age. It is a time of moving out of a home, finding a job, joining the military, and going off to college. Typically, children from traditional homes have parents who are able to guide them through these changes, providing help and advice as these 18 year olds determine the next stage in their lives. Along with this, most young adults are still able to rely on their parents not only for good advice, but for help financially, as well. Foster children, though, do not have these resources, these lifelines so to speak, to help out as they try


to ease into their own lives of independence. When they are sick, there is no one to take care of them. Struggling in college? Often, there is no one to help them with their studies. Car broken down? Most former foster children have no one to turn to for help.

Youth who age out of care often leave the foster system without the necessary skills, experiences or knowledge they need in order to best adjust to society. Without a family to turn to once they age out, many foster children find themselves in difficult times and situations. These young adults, who are involuntarily separated from their foster families through the intervention of the government, face higher rates of homelessness, as most have no options for future housing. Unemployment is higher in former foster children, and many struggle financially. This may be due to the fact that roughly 50 percent of those youth who age out do not complete high school. Even more

disturbing is that these youth are more than twice as likely not to have a high school diploma than those their own age. Less than 30 percent of former foster children ever make it to college, let alone graduate with a degree.

As so many of these youths struggle with lack of employment, a lack of education or high school diploma, as well as the issue of homelessness, it should be no surprise that a large number also face poverty, or economic instability.

According to the findings in the Midwest Study, only 46 percent of former foster youth had a savings or checking bank account opened in their name, as opposed to 82 percent of their peers. Along with this, those foster teens who aged out of the system are twice as likely not to have enough money needed in order to pay for rent. Roughly 25 percent of males and more than 50 percent of females receive government assistance in


FOCUS: Tips for Parenting Teens and Preparing Them for the Future


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