The disturbing but true facts of our nation’s orphan crisis were recently confirmed in a Fact Sheet published by The White House on December 8, 2014. There are over 400,000 children in our nation’s foster care system alone with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted. That is over 100,000 children without a secure foundation and most critically without a forever mom and dad who will love them consistently. As recently reported in our article, The Forgotten, there are over 20,000 of these youth age out of foster care each year. The numbers are astounding.

Statistics also show that that this ever growing number of youth also face challenges with completing their education, unemployment, financial security, and the criminal justice system.  However, The White House announced that they are taking new steps with partners such as My Brother’s Keeper Federal Taskforce to help reverse these trends and to help support our nation’s foster youth in several vital areas.

Ensuring Access to Healthy Meals: A joint letter from the Department of Agriculture, Education, and Health and Human Services was issued to help provide free school lunches to foster children without submission of a household school meal application. The letter also outlines various strategies for school districts to reach out to families in their communities who have foster children who may not have automatically received free school meals otherwise.

Building Financial Security: Financial empowerment toolkits have been developed to provide caseworkers, independent living skills providers, foster parents and other supportive adults with strategies and resources to critically evaluate and improve their current ability to promote financial capability for youth in foster care. It is specifically designed to assist young adults preparing to transition out of the foster care system.

Keeping Young People in their Homes and Out of the Justice System: The goal in foster care is to prevent removing children from their families as much as possible or to reunify them more quickly. A new partnership called the MOMS Partnership has been coordinated by Yale University School of Medicine and the City of New Haven and community organizations. As an inaugural program such as this it will focus on depression and toxic environment stress among mothers who may be at risk for having their children placed in foster care. Additionally, a new program called Caregiver Substance Use and Recovery Services will use proven solutions in working with parents confronting substance abuse challenges by providing recovery supports and other services that will support them in their recovery journey.

Creating Clear Pathways to Employment: The Department of Labor, working in partnership with The Department of Health and Human Services, will release a web-based tool for youth in foster care, resource parents, and independent living coordinators which will provide easy access to all of Labor’s best youth employment resources and targeted links into its Career One Stop e-tools site. Even more impressive, the site is being created with the input of the foster youth themselves. This web-based tool is scheduled to be released this March during Foster Care Month.

Training for case managers in local American Job Centers will also be released to familiarize them with specific challenges that confront youth in foster care and how to better support their transition to employment using these new tools.

Reducing Youth Homelessness: One of the most heart-breaking outcomes of youth aging out of foster care is that they face homelessness at a much higher rate than their peers. This is a various serious issue in our nation and in response, Casey Family Services, in collaboration with other key partners, are working on more reliable mechanisms to actually account for the number of homeless youth. The goal is that providing actual numbers that communities will be much more engaged so that they basically can know what they are dealing with and provide the necessary resources to help reduce these devastating numbers in their own backyards.

Foster youth, like each and every one of us, do best with a permanent and loving family. To learn more about how you can make a difference and start reversing the trend of The Forgotten, visit www.AdoptUSKids.org.