Aging Out Of Foster Care: A Hard Look At A Serious Problem

When it comes to “aging out” of the foster care system, there are plenty of stigmas to go around. It’s widely known that many kids who grow up in foster care have nowhere to go after they turn 18. According to CBS Denver, “Many of them end up homeless, unemployed, drug-addicted, or in jail.”

Former foster child Gordon Davison knows this plight all too well. He was in foster care for 13 years, and he was kicked out on his 18th birthday. Within a year he was living on the streets with nothing. Then he found the program Bridging The Gap. They helped him sort out his situation and set goals for the future. With their help he earned his college degree and landed a good job. Now he volunteers there helping others.

Chelsea Hill is a foster mom. Over the last 9 years she has taken 20 children into her home through foster care. Some of those kids who have “aged out” have ended up homeless, without jobs, being unable to get an education. She says by the time she gets them at ages 13, 14, and 15, they are already behind. Hill explained it’s much easier to teach them skills than it is to teach them the motivation that should have been instilled long ago. She sees a lack of resources for these kids. Hill is adopting for the first time in hopes that proving she is a constant in the child’s life with have a positive effect.

The State of Colorado is working on a program that would provide support for 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds. Robert Werthwein of the Office of Children, Youth and Families at the Colorado Department of Human Services says, “The best champions and cheerleaders are parents. And that’s why the real solution is to get all 288 kids waiting for adoption, families.”

In search of a successful transition plan, Dr. Jamie Schwandt, a former foster child himself, interviewed 57 former foster kids. He learned that 85% believed the system had failed them. 23% were incarcerated after leaving foster care. Only 54% graduated from high school, and 2% graduated from college. For the kids who looked for an exit plan, a mere 5% found one. In his bookSucceeding as a Foster Child A Workbook, Schwandt shines a spotlight on many resources that go unused simply because no one knows about them. We need more tools for teens in foster care weighing their options for the future.