What Happens to Foster Youth When They Turn 18?
On average, 23,000 children age out of the foster care system every year. When they turn 18, they will be let loose by the system and forced to live on their own. But what exactly does this mean for the child?
Foster kids who leave the system will automatically lose every type of support that they have had for years, including both financial and emotional support. This can result in all sorts of issues. In fact, statistics show that less than 3% of children who have aged out of foster care will earn a college degree by 26, greatly affecting their ability to find a good job and support themselves.
1. 20% Will Become Homeless
Children who leave foster care will no longer have a place to live, forcibly removed from the place that they called home. They will be pushed out of their foster home or residential institution. What’s more is that many have never learned basic life skills since they’ve been shuffled from place to place. So, they may not have the resources to find the assistance to get off the streets.
2. Without Resources, Many Will End in the Sex Trade
Without a college degree and with low employment options, many young women may end up in the sex trade. In fact, 60% who age out of the system will turn to the sex industry. They also become easy targets for sex traffickers since they lack support systems and are seeking someone to protect them. Plus, many of the young women in foster care were sex trafficked as children.
The result is that 70% of the women who age out of the foster care system end up pregnant by 21. Since these women cannot support their own children, more than likely these kids will also be sent to the foster system, enforcing this never-ending cycle.
3. Suffering from PTSD
Children in the foster care system have probably been dealing with mental health issues for a long time. They were more than likely sent to foster care due to family problems or other issues that made it impossible for them to have anything resembling a normal life. Some were even taken away from their parents due to abuse. This affected their stability and ability to get schoolwork done. Plus, the foster care system itself can be traumatizing.
Now, they have aged out of the system and are alone. According to NFYI, 25% of these children suffer from some form of PTSD. This can lead them to make questionable choices that affect their overall health and job prospects. In fact, only 50% of kids who have aged out of foster care find employment by the age of 24. And those that do find work often only work in low-paying jobs since they don’t have a lot of education, meaning they lack the qualifications for higher-paying options.
This can often lead to additional depression and acting out. This leaves them open to drug abuse as well as victimization. If you look at the general population, only about 18% to 22% of children have mental health issues. 80% of foster youth, however, suffer from mental health concerns.
4. Many End Up Incarcerated
Without a comprehensive support system, PTSD, and lack of financial funds, 25% of foster kids who have aged out of the system will end up in jail. The statistics are even worse for children who grew up in group homes. They’re two and half times more likely to be incarcerated. Children who had multiple foster placements – five or more – have a 90% chance of being incarcerated. Children of color also have a higher chance of ending up incarcerated.
There are many negative connotations to being a “foster kid”. Most people already believe that these children are more dangerous than the average youth and will treat them that way. This makes foster children more likely to lash out and be seen as bad and needing to be punished.
Ongoing support is the only way to ensure that children who age out of foster care lead successful, healthy lives.
What Can Be Done
The foster system isn’t really designed to be a place to help children achieve higher education and job placement goals. Many will fall through the cracks and end up in jail or with other issues. But there are organizations that wish to prevent this from happening and help them find more productive ways to live in society.
At the Rezvan Foundation, we help foster children achieve their higher education goals. Our organization grants individual college scholarship awards throughout the country and provides one-on-one mentorship support. We work to break the foster care to jail or risky behaviors cycle and make a difference in their lives.
Learn more about our program. Subscribe to our newsletter today, or donate now. Help us help foster care youth achieve their dreams!
Keywords: Foster Care, Foster Care System, Foster Kids, Aged Out Of The System