Three Ontario women, with the assistance of their church, are working to ensure foster children in their area feel loved. These women create large gunnysacks that contain toiletries, toys, a handmade quilt, and a letter for children entering the system. The ladies, all over the age of 70, have created and donated over 400 bags to the area’s foster care system. The bags are created with colorful materials, designed with ages and genders in mind.
As a foster parent, I run into many people who express a desire to support foster children but can’t open their homes to them for whatever reason. What a heartwarming example of three ladies who are using their time and skills to make a difference for foster youth in a unique way.
Rita Soronen, President and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, recently wrote piece for CNN Opinion raising awareness and calling for action to support foster children aging out of the system. Soronen stated that over 23,000 youth were emancipated from the foster care system with no family, assistance, or, in many cases, safety. Statistics show that one in five on these children are likely to become homeless after 18, and only half will be employed by the time they reach 24. May, National Foster Care Month, is the perfect time to reach out to state officials to push for foster care reform that will offer support to these children who have nowhere to turn and are unprepared for adulthood, urges Soronen.
Some states have extended foster care options to youth up to 21 and have seen good results. Foster children need extended support to begin learning skills that will allow them to lead successful adult lives. No change will happen without support and involvement from the public.
The outlook for youth aging out of the system is often bleak, but the ACA may make it a little brighter. Under the new law, children can remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. The law also provides similar provisions for children who have aged out of foster care. Emancipated foster youth can receive Medicaid coverage until they are 26, if they were receiving coverage at the time they aged out.
While healthcare is not the solution to the issues emancipated foster youth face at 18, it will provide some support for them as they begin to navigate adult life. However, with or without healthcare, these former foster children need the support of a family or family-like community to increase their chances of safe and successful adulthood.