The numbers are stark. According to Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation on foster care issues, it is estimated that 30-50 percent of youth exit the foster care system without a high school diploma or high school equivalent. Meanwhile, only 30.7 percent of children who grow up in foster care graduate from high school.
The numbers are even worse at the college level. Only 2.5 percent of children who grow up in foster care graduate from a four-year college while fewer than 2 percent of youth formerly in foster care complete a bachelor’s degree before the age of 25, compared with 24 percent of the general population. Overall, these adolescents are more likely to perform below grade level, to score lower on statewide achievement tests, to repeat grades, to have high rates of absenteeism and tardiness and to drop out of school. Below is an article by a foster kid who has managed the transition along with her recommended resources.
Preparing for Adulthood
Program Development Specialist
National Resource Center for Youth Development
Are you a teen who recently aged out of foster care? Are you preparing to leave care soon? I aged out about a decade ago and know there’s a lot to think about as you plan for your future. No worries—there are many resources out there to assist you in answering the questions you have so you can start creating a transition plan for yourself. Until recently, I worked at FosterClub, so let’s start with some of my favorite free transitional resources they have created with tons of input from hundreds of youth who have already transitioned out of care.
FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care. The organization has 20,000 members across the country. Their new Transition Toolkit is designed to help you and your team of adult supporters take inventory of your current assets, identify your resources and map out a plan. Many of us have the fear of never having a forever family or a network of supporters. A valuable tool to help you in planning for a life filled with positive circles of supporters is FosterClub’s Permanency Pact. This free resource guides you in assembling positive, kin-like relationships with supportive adults. This tool has transformed my life; I have unofficially adopted members to my family as aunts, siblings and grandparents. It has also helped me succeed in joining a sorority, which in turn has brought me a nationwide network of sisters . I have used the Permanency Pact to become a better big sister and aunt to my biological family as well. The hardest part for me was asking people I was already close to if it was okay for me to visit them on holidays or to call me on my birthday. Be sure to ask—they’ll say yes!
I had to travel halfway across the country to my new job at NRCYD. Talk about a transition! Did you know that you may be able to receive free money through Education and Training Vouchers (ETV)? In 2001, Congress passed a law that made ETV available to youth in care. The vouchers can help you continue your education. NRCYD has spent the past year analyzing how states have carried out the program. The result is Educating Youth in Care: The First Year of Education and Training Vouchers. NRCYD also offers a pocket workbook you may be interested in: A Future Near Me—Questions to Guide a Young Adult Toward Self-Sufficiency. It includes 100 questions to consider. A version specifically for American Indian/Alaska Native youth is available.
This website provides a wealth of resources for you and the adults who support you. It includes information on scholarships and tuition waivers you might be eligible for.
FCAA is a national nonprofit founded and led by alumni of the foster care system. Their mission is to connect you with the alumni community and to transform foster care policy and practice. Their book, Flux: Life After Foster Care, answers the question “What do I wish someone had told me when I was 15, 18, 25?” Flux provides context to your emotions and real-life examples of challenges and opportunities during this complicated transition. While it won’t make the journey easy, it will help you make sense of it.
Visit the National CASA website for a wealth of resources for you or the adults supporting you through your transition to independence.
I want to thank National CASA for their efforts in promoting resources for teens in foster care. The key is planning for your future. I wish I had had an article like this ten years ago when I aged out. Through taking inventory of what is available to you, you will be able to make any goal you set into a goal you can achieve! Best wishes to you in transitioning into independence. Ask the questions you need to, and educate yourself on how to be the manager of your own future. If you have any questions, please look for me at NRCYD.ou.edu.