Foster Care in America
The child welfare program is an umbrella term for the systems in the United States that act in cases of child abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation. In these situations, minors are taken out of their homes, and moved to different places approved by the state. This placement is commonly referred to as foster care or the foster care system.
What Happens after Foster Care?
Inevitably, for every foster youth, the day comes where they will “age out” of the system. “Aging out” usually happens between 18-21 years of age. At this point, young adults are expected to start navigating the world independently. Unfortunately, the system is far from perfect and these youth are oftentimes vastly under-equipped for this transition, leaving them vulnerable for additional hardships.
The Concerning Numbers
There are almost half a million children in the foster care system on any given day. Each year, over 20,000 of these kids age out of the system. Recent statistics show that within 18 months of this aging out transition, 40-50% of foster youth become homeless.
Some Bay Area Statistics
Looking closer to home, recent studies have shown that in San Francisco alone, there are estimated to be over 1000 homeless youth. 30% of these unhoused youth report having a history of being in the foster care system. Additionally, a survey conducted in Alameda County, revealed that over one in four (29%) unhoused youth attributed their homelessness to aging out of foster care. Looking at Sacramento County’s unhoused population, 34% had been in foster care.
Dishearteningly, the statistics could go on and on. Research clearly shows that the likelihood of individuals becoming homeless is increased if these individuals spent time in the foster care system, especially if their time in the system was during the aging out transitional process.
Why are so many young people falling through the cracks and ending up unhoused? Succinctly spoken, many do not have access to traditional familial support and/or financial resources to achieve and maintain housing. These youth may face far more barriers than the average young adult, so much so that the odds seem to be infinitely stacked against their success. However, this is a deeply nuanced issue, very wrapped up in the sociological failings of the past and present.
A Call to Action!
In the wake of this issue, there thankfully is an organization with a phenomenal mission. First Place For Youth, a nonprofit located in Oakland, has a mission to help foster youth build the skills they need to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood. In 2022 alone, they worked with over 1000 aging out foster youth. The organization uses evidence-based research to offer programs, workshops, and empowerment. The process is designed to “foster a sense of permanency and build skills to be self-sufficient in the long term”.
Check out First Place for Youth to read more about the legacy they are leaving. You can also donate here, to help them continue their important mission.
Through partnering with First Place for Youth, all can make a difference in the lives of the countless youth who are aging out of the foster care system every year. Together, we can try to decrease the likelihood that these individuals will become homeless and unsupported. Together, we can support this Bay Area Nonprofit to make an impact in our community.
By Rebekah Barger