Help Needed for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care in America

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.

Aging Out of Foster Care
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.

While the FCA was a major stride in the right direction, older foster children still face an uphill battle. The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that more than 1 in 5 foster youth will experience homelessness after turning 18 and by the age of 24, only half will be employed.

The issues those leaving foster care face not only have an impact on them but also on society as a whole. The looming challenges they endure after leaving care have an estimated cost of nearly 8 billion dollars for every year’s group of aged out foster youth.

Aging out of Foster Care in America

Fortunately, there are numerous national and statewide efforts aimed at reducing these staggering statistics. For more than 20 percent of aged out foster youth experiencing homelessness, one of their biggest advocates is Covenant House. This nonprofit has locations in 30 cities throughout North America and more than 1/3 of those that come to the organization for assistance are those that have aged out of foster care system. Covenant House offers a variety of resources to help homeless youth develop the life skills needed to get off the streets. Along with offering room and board and clean clothes, Covenant House also provides educational services to help residents obtain GEDs and certifications in various vocations, ranging from the culinary field to medical professions.

LifeWorks, a Texas based nonprofit, provides shelter to more than 140 youth every night in the Greater Austin area. Additionally, the organization looks to better their residents’ future by finding them a sustainable place to call home, helping them obtain a higher level of education and preparing them to begin their job search. As one of the largest free mental health counseling facilities in Texas, LifeWorks aims to help former foster youth, a demographic that is twice as likely to suffer from PTSD than veterans returning from Iraq, grow into healthy adults.

The Monkey & The Elephant, a nonprofit café located in Philadelphia, goes beyond offering shelter and life skills training. It offers former foster youth an apartment, a job and a comprehensive personal development program spanning 10 months. Every youth that has completed the program has left with a more stable life after having acquired employment and housing of their own. While working with The Monkey & The Elephant, the youth develop the skills needed to maintain a job and improve self-awareness and self-esteem. The life skills they receive, such as time management and budgeting, will go on to serve them throughout their lives. One of the café’s collaborators that helps support those in the program is the aforementioned Covenant House.

While one organization may not be able to help the 20,000+ foster youth that age out of the foster care system every year, their combined efforts have helped thousands find the path to a more successful future.

Aging Out of Foster Care in New Jersey

Since matching the national average of foster youth aging out in 2011 at 10 percent, New Jersey has made strides in reducing that figure to 7 percent in 2015. As New Jersey continues to improve these numbers by finding permanency plans for every child in care, there are a variety of services throughout the state that help these young adults successfully transition to the next chapter of their lives.

New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Office of Adolescent Services (OAS) focuses on supporting youth transitioning to adulthood. Their goal is to prepare those aging out of foster care to live on their own through a variety of programs that focus on topics like financial stability, physical and mental health care, housing and other valuable life skills. OAS continuously works to partner with other organizations to make it easier for youth to get the support they need.

With just 2 percent of foster youth obtaining a college degree by the age of 25 nationally, there is an ever present need to help improve these numbers. Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) works with DCF to offset the cost of secondary education for these youth through the New Jersey Foster Care (NJFC) Scholars Program. Since its inception in 2003, the program has provided financial support to over 300 NJFC Scholars that have gone on to graduate with a degree.

The NJFC Scholars Program assists students in covering tuition, room and board, books and supplies, among other costs associated with secondary education. The program is offered to eligible youth in foster care and those who have aged out of the system. Along with assisting youth with financial support, FAFS also finds gap housing for these students to ensure they don’t become homeless during times off from school, such as summer and winter break.

For more information about services that support youth that are about to or have aged out of the foster care system, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has set up the Child Welfare Information Gateway website. Their page offers valuable resources to transitioning youth and links to state specific programs.

Those in New Jersey interested in learning more about services FAFS offers to youth aging out of foster care, such as the NJFC Scholars Program, click here.

If you’re not a NJ resident, click here for national services.

14 thoughts on “Help Needed for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care in America

  1. How can I meet a kid who will age out of foster care in Pennsylvania or already has? I would like to personally help them.

    • Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) provides services and assistance to New Jersey licensed resource, kinship and adoptive families therefore we are unfortunately limited on how we can assist since you are not a NJ resident. If you would like to connect to a child or youth in care, you will need to reach out to your county’s Child Protection Agency. I have attached below a link to Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services Directory for the Office of Children, Youth and Families to further assist.

      Corissa Kazar
      Support Services Manager

    • You won’t know, since files are hidden. You can become a foster parent and help a child succeed in the furture. I am a foster kid and has aged out. I go to college but most kids don’t have great foster parents, because they are in it for the money.

    • That’s so sweet. I just recently aged out myself and am looking up different grants and all. I admire you for that! I am also from PA-it’s great to see people close by wanting to help! 🙂

  2. This is s dream of mine to help in a bigger way. I want to build a home, several room and bathroom attached similar to form room now with common areas and rent them to out of aged care kids, give them an opportunity for therapy, life skills and needed knowledge in our big world today.
    I’m about to take my real estate exam and 20% is going into a non profit foundation account for this dream of mine. Researching the best opportunities and trying not to re invent the wheel!

  3. interested in creating a place where transitioning youth can live while they are receiving additional life skills, any info would be appreciated

  4. I’m very interested in opening a transitional Housing for youth who age out of foster care, teaching life skills helping them become successful within 2yrs. Also would be a advocate on their behalf, connecting them to resources in the community. Teaching how to navigate the world they have been trusted into. This is something I’ve been wanting to do since 2002. Our youth is to important to just cast aside, they are our FUTURE.

  5. I need help ive resentley aged out my fam wont help and the 18 to 21 program wont help im homless and would be so great ful to get pointed in the right direction for help i have a clean record i graguated frome high school i just need some help please coment if you have info my phone not on so i walk to foodlion everyday for wifi so if yoy comment i will see thankyou

  6. Hello All,

    I am currently a resident of WV and am venturing out to obtain properties for housing young people who have aged out of the foster care system. I am in the process of purchasing my first home for this purpose. The home is in need of a great deal of repair before it can be lived in. I can only afford to purchase homes in need of repair so I am seeking out grants that I can apply for in order to obtain money to do the renovations. The house I am purchasing is about 5000 sq ft and will house up to 8 young people! I am also working on establishing my 501c3 for non profit status. Does anyone know of any grants or agencies that I could apply or contact in order to collect funds for this project? I am doing this completely on blind faith! I am confident that God has led me in this direction and am pursuing this in faith. Any help, direction, suggestions are much appreciated.

    • Elizabeth,
      This is also something that I have been researching. I will let you know what I find and please let me know if you find something. Thanks!

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