Most teenagers can’t wait to turn 18 or 21 to enjoy their freedom. However, for teens in foster care, these ages carry with it a freedom that isn’t always wanted. Every year more than 20,000 youth in foster care age out of the system and lose life-changing services in the process.
When youth age out, they become ineligible for the state funding they have received since entering the foster care system. This funding helps them with everything from housing to medical care. Youth also no longer have caseworkers to talk with when issues arise or foster families to welcome them home after a long day. Many go from having a variety of resources and people supporting them to being alone in the world.
Prior to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (FCA), only youth under the age of 18 were eligible to be in foster care. The FCA provided states the option to receive federal funding that extends foster children’s benefits to the age of 21. Since 2008, 26 states, including New Jersey and the District of Columbia, have passed the act allowing youth to choose to stay in foster care until their 21st birthday.
When teenagers think of turning 17, many probably think about getting their license, their first car and who they are taking to prom.
When Jacob Tucci looks back at being 17, he’s reminded of the year he entered the foster care system.
“It’s hard to think that I entered the foster care system so late,” Jacob says, “because there are other kids that enter the foster care system at such a young age, but I don’t think there’s a right time to have that happen.”
When engaged with the child welfare system, one tends to focus on the negative – the drug-addicted mother, the negligent parent or the unexpected family tragedy that often sends children into foster care. Despite the difficult emotions that come with these situations, it must be remembered that the foster care system is intended as a place of hope, opportunity and growth for these young lives. This quarter, the Foster Success Spotlight falls on Cleo Bell.
Cleo Bell before accepting her award at the FAFS Recognition brunch.
A freshman at Chestnut Hill College, Cleo stands as a shining example of success in the wake of tragedy.
Her biological mother passed an addiction to crack cocaine to newborn Cleo, who was hospitalized for the first eight weeks of her life as a result. Thanks to Cleo’s maternal grandmother, her eventual adoptive mother, June, was informed of Cleo’s birth and circumstances. June jumped at this opportunity to care for Cleo. Continue reading
Human trafficking is a growing concern not just in the United States but in the entire world. Often times, public perception is that slave labor is primarily a major issue in developing countries. However, the reality is there is a gradual trend in our own American backyard: an increasingly large number of foster kids being sex trafficked. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is the most common form of human trafficking in America and runaway and homeless youth, namely foster kids, are its primary victims.
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as inducing any child under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that one in six endangered runaways were likely to be sex trafficking victims in 2014. In 2013, it was one in seven.
However, no matter how harrowing these statistics may be, it is believed the actual numbers are likely worse.
A recently released federal study found that more than half of America’s homeless youth became homeless for the first time after a parent or caregiver forced them to leave. But for foster kids, the results of the study are even more startling. Almost half the homeless youth across the country have previously been in foster care.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, polled 873 youth, ages 14-21, in 11 cities, including New York City and Chicago. The goal of the study was to obtain information on service utilizations and needs from the homeless youth.
There is no getting around the cost of college for a prospective student. It’s expensive and it’s likely only getting pricier as you’re reading this. But all hope is not lost. Even if you’re in a situation where you don’t have mom and dad’s checkbook to fall back on– a circumstance that many foster youth can relate to– you can still find ways to afford school. It all starts with searching for private scholarships.
There is money out there and it’s waiting for you.
Believe it or not, across the country there are organizations solely dedicated to providing money for youth to attend college. The key is finding them and completing an application.
Foster youth, like most teens preparing for college, might not have the first clue where or when to start looking for scholarships. But unlike most prospective students, foster teens might not have someone in their home to guide them through a somewhat complicated process. Continue reading