When Shaquita aged out of foster care at 18, she had no idea what to do and didn’t know who could help her. “My foster mom did not know what to do,” she told Children’s Rights. “So we went to the Department of Children and Family services and asked them what would be the next steps. Start over?”
Starting over is the grim reality many foster youth face upon aging out of care, and the biggest obstacle often is finding a way to support themselves. According to a multi-state study, 47 percent of former foster children are unemployed. Even former foster youth who do have jobs can run into trouble supporting themselves, as more than 71 percent report an annual income of less than $25,000.
“We’re preparing our kids in foster care…to be another statistic,” is how Shaquita puts it and, while she did manage to attend college and start a career, this hasn’t been the case for Shannon.
After spending most of her time in foster care, Shannon aged out at 18 and has experienced both homelessness and unemployment. “It’s almost like a catch-22,” she told Children’s Rights. “If you don’t have a place to go, you’re not getting a job. If you don’t have a job then you’re not going to have anywhere to go.”
Children’s Rights believes many states must do more to make sure youth have the support they need to find employment and go on to productive lives as adults. Our legal advocacy campaigns include reforms designed to ensure these youth have access to services like job training and extended foster care benefits past the age of 18–which, studies show, is tied to increases in both employment rates and annual earnings.
Porscha is just one example of what our reform campaigns can do. When she first entered foster care, she was bounced between homes before being placed in an institution. However, thanks to Children’s Rights’ strong advocacy on behalf of foster children, Porscha’s caseworker was able to connect her to continuing education and job opportunities. Now she has a full-time job and is getting the education she needs to land an even better one.
Too many child welfare systems don’t have the basic programs that make the difference between a successful career and a life spent struggling to get by. For every success story, there are still countless former foster youth who don’t know if they’ll ever be able to support themselves. It’s impossible to know the scope of the situation, as there is no national data, and so many former foster youth disappear off the grid upon exiting care.
For almost 20 years, Children’s Rights has been the voice fighting for change on behalf of this forgotten population, but we need your help. You can join our fight by making a donation online and spreading the word about our work by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.