When a child is placed into foster care, often people believe there are two options: either the child is later reunited with his or her biological family, or they are adopted. But what ever happens to the children who are not reunited or adopted? They cannot stay in the foster care system forever. Once the child reaches the age of 18 (and sometimes even earlier), they “age out” of the foster care system.
When a foster child reaches the legal age of adulthood, they are no longer permitted to be under the child welfare system. Most of the time, the foster youth are given a day to pack up and leave.
One university student shared with me briefly her friend's story on aging out of the foster care system:
"My friend was in the foster care system for most of her life. She was living in a group home, and when she turned eighteen she was told to pack up. She packed up and they gave her a bus ticket.”
My mind was later filled with questions: Was this girl told to pack up on her birthday? Where was the bus ticket to? Some kids are still in high school when they turn 18; how do they manage to continue school?
The student I spoke with informed me that somehow her friend got through it and is now even enrolled in college. The former foster child might become one of the very few former foster youths that earn a Bachelor’s degree or higher. “By age 26, 4% of youth who aged out of foster care had earned a 4-year college degree, while 36% of youth in the general population had done so.”*
While students in the general population spend their senior year in high school worrying about SATs, finals, and college applications, foster kids spend the year preparing to be launched into adulthood with unrealistic expectations of succeeding on their own. More than 23,000 young adults will age out of foster care this year—that is more than 10% of foster care statewide.
In the infographic below, there are more statistics on the outcomes of aging out of foster care systems:
Not everyone can provide a child with a permanent family, but you can provide a child with a permanent reminder that they are important. When a foster child moves from placement to placement, and even when they age out of the system, they are given a trash bag to pack their belongings in. A Case for Character provides these kids with brand new suitcases, giving them back their dignity and giving them a “house.”
To learn more about how you can help, please visit our homepage for opportunities to partner, donate, or get involved [Click here]
Kierstyn is Forever Kids' media director and campaign coordinator. Stepping into ministry with Tony and Kathy Salerno several years ago, she continues to help promote awareness for the organization's passion to help meet the needs of children in a character way.
*The AFCARS Report
Aging Out of Foster Care: The Costs of Doing Nothing Affect Us All
(Gary Stangler, Huffington Post)