5 Things That Happen to Kids Who Age Out of Foster Care

Behind each stat is a young person whose life was disrupted by abuse and neglect.

Caroline Bailey November 06, 2017
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The statistic is alarming. Approximately twenty-thousand older children age out of the US foster care system per year. This means that 20,000 young adults ages 18-21 enter into the world without the stability that families bring. While the statistic is hard to hear, the truth about what can happen to these young adults is even more difficult.

Here are some facts of what happens to kids who age out of foster care

1) Twenty percent of youth who were in foster care will become instantly homeless upon aging out.

Yes. You read that right . . . instantly homeless. Older youth who have simply survived in the system but did not thrive in it, age out with nowhere to call home and most of the time, they are lacking the personal skills and knowledge they need to access resources that can help them.

2) There is less than a 3% chance of a child who ages out of foster care achieving higher education.

It is not that they are incapable of further education, are not intelligent, or do not desire to earn a college degree. Many lack the skills needed to enroll in college or apply for tuition grants or education loans.

3) Only one out of every two older youth will have employment by the age of twenty-four.

With the lack of education and appropriate independent living skills, the risk of unemployment is very high. Because of this, older youth who are on the streets are at high risk for abusing substances, becoming victims of crimes, engaging in criminal behavior, and falling prey to human traffickers. With the lack of stability and resources, these youths become easy targets for victimization.

4) Twenty-five percent of older youth who age out of foster care are affected by PTSD.

In essence, child abuse and neglect just does not go away once a child enters the system and is out of harm’s way. The impact of abuse and neglect is lifelong and can be very detrimental to overall functioning. Growing up in the foster care system in itself can be traumatic – not knowing if one is going to be reunified with biological family or adopted, not knowing if one has to move or not, bouncing around from home to home, changing caseworkers every year or so, etc. All of this is hard to overcome.

5) Seven out of ten girls who age out will become pregnant before the age of twenty-one.

This statistic is very concerning given the entirety of all of the risk factors mentioned above. There is an additional risk to the babies born to these mothers. They potentially could become victims of abuse and neglect and experience homelessness and instability, thus, continuing the cycle.

If reading these statistics does not cause a reaction within you, then perhaps you need to read them again.

Behind each stat is a young person whose life was disrupted by abuse and neglect and who spent their childhood in the system by no fault of their own.

There are things that we can all do to improve their chances of success, though.

  • Consider becoming a mentor or volunteer with a program that works directly with foster youth.
  • If you have thought about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, consider taking in older kids. There is a great need for foster homes for teenagers, and through fostering, you can have a direct impact of preparing youth for adulthood.
  • Get involved with advocacy groups that affect change in policy and procedures.
  • Educate others about what is going on with kids who age out of the system.

Every youth who ages out of care deserves the opportunity to explore their talents and interests and to achieve their goals (because they all have them). They have the right to live their lives free of abuse and victimization. They need to know that they are not “throw-away” kids. Surely, we can do better.

(Statistics taken from the National Foster Youth Institute.)

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Caroline Bailey

Caroline is a mother of three children through adoption and a strong advocate for the needs of children and families involved in the child welfare system in the United States. At the age of eleven (1983), she underwent an emergency hysterectomy in order to save her life. Caroline is the youngest person to have a hysterectomy. Her life has been profoundly affected by infertility. In 2006, Caroline and her husband, Bruce, became licensed foster parents. They were blessed to adopt two of their children through foster care in 2008 and 2010. Their youngest child is a relative of Caroline, and they celebrated his adoption in 2013. Caroline works for a Christian child welfare agency in Missouri. She has been a guest speaker at churches and conferences regarding adoption and is currently working on a memoir about the impact of illness, faith, foster care, and adoption in her life. Caroline is also an avid cyclist and enjoys cheering her children on in their various sporting activities. She shares her experience about foster care, adoption, barrenness, parenting, and faith on her blog. She would love to hear from you! Contact her at barrentoblessed@gmail.com.


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