Teens in foster care aging out of the system and becoming homeless

Lefty Graves

We’ve all seen them. Youth standing on a street corner looking cold, disheveled, and dirty. Some of these youth are running from abusive homes; others are struggling with addiction, and some are simply the product of aging out of foster care and having nowhere to go because they can’t support themselves.

Most foster children have to leave their foster homes when they turn 18. Many of these youth haven’t even graduated high school yet. Some foster parents will allow them to remain living there until they graduate, but not all foster parents are willing to do this.

These youth are at high risk of becoming homeless. Many are not yet able to support themselves. A few of them have jobs, but they don’t earn enough to pay for housing and support themselves. Sadly, some will have to drop out of school in order to work more hours and support themselves.

Many of these teens don’t have a job. They’ve been from one foster family to another and don’t have any anchors to help stabilize them. More care needs to be taken to ensure these kids will succeed when they leave foster care; otherwise, we’re just restarting the cycle.

Woefully unprepared to balance their budget, earn a living, maintain their education, and afford healthy food and safe living accommodations, these teens are often lost in the system. Thankfully, there are many great programs that these youth can join that will help guide them along the way to becoming successful adults.

Programs that will help youth learn how to budget and maintain safe living accommodations. Programs that will help them gain an education that will give them the opportunity to earn a decent wage and support themselves.

Another option is to go into a program called Running Start. Running Start is offered in five states at this time. It gives youth the opportunity to graduate from high school with a partial college education that will help them to have the leading edge and excel.

Helping these youth to create a plan such as this one will go far in helping them to be successful. Students should consider talking with their school counselor or a job coach to see what options they may have when they reach the age of 18.

How can you help?

There are many great ways you can help. You can mentor these youth. Give them the opportunity to work part-time and earn some money. Teach them budgeting skills, and help them cope with the loss of their life. Join a group like Big Brother Big Sisters and mentor these youth by sharing your wealth of knowledge with them.

Donate to programs like Safety Net or your local community to help give these youth the leading edge. Remember when you turned 18? Step out of your comfort zone and help keep these youth off the streets. Help these youth gain an education by donating to scholarship programs or other programs that help them earn a living and gain an education.

If you’re a foster parent, help ensure that your aging-out foster child is prepared to lead an adult life safely and effectively. If you’re able, allow them to live with you until they’re old enough to support themselves (with proper encouragement along the way). This may include helping them set up a budget and pay you rent from their earnings.

If you know of a youth that is in their teens and in foster care, offer them a helping hand by giving them the opportunity to gain knowledge. You can make a difference. You never know when you might be the one in need someday, and these youth give back. How will you make a difference in someone's life?






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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction recovery, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming, and an eclectic mix of other topics. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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