Written by: Erica Pahud
Most nonprofit foster organizations have an age cut-off of age 18.
The nonprofit organization that I currently work for, Indiana Youth Group, will allow some leniency for 19-year-old “adults,” but for the most part, when the youth becomes an adult they are referred to other organizations that offer adult programs. These programs, though valuable, are detached from the continuous care on which foster youth rely.
It is my view that the cut-off for services should apply more to preparedness than age. There are a multitude of reasons why it may be too soon to force an abrupt transition upon reaching adulthood upon age 18 (Stangler, 2014). Some reasons are:
- The obvious fact that facing adulthood is more challenging and even frightening to foster youth
- Every youth aging out too soon has an impact on social costs, for examples, compensating for youth earning low wages or receiving government assistance
- Resources and funds are available to foster care organizations, as there are less resources and funds available for adult organizations/programs
- Having policy that allows a transitional period with the option to return to foster care if independent living isn’t successful is feasible
- Having policy that ensures necessary skills needed in order for youth to succeed have been acquired is feasible
Constant changes in society, for example, the higher demand from employers for applicants to have a Master’s degree, reinforce these facts. 30 is the new 20, is it not? Cutting-off a served youth too early could undo positive progress, causing them to significantly backslide.
I would like to share a personal example. My place of employment, Indiana Youth Group, recently received a call from a child that was kicked-out of his home at age 17 with no place to stay. Because Indiana Youth Group is a safe home for kids experiencing family problems, we were able to provide him with information and support, while connecting him to foster care. This particular child showed obvious signs of needing of help. If he didn’t need help, he wouldn’t have gone online or to the phone book to find our organization. Luckily, foster care will provide him all of the necessary things required for immediate survival as well as future success, but what if he were only allowed to stay for several months. He would enter the foster care system, begin receiving services and recovering from family-related set-backs, and then suddenly be thrust into the “real world” with no option to stay in foster care longer if he so desires.
So what needs to be done?
The answer is in prevention. The way to prevent these problems is to invest more into youth’s futures. Investment should focus on quality over quantity with the mind-set that “age is just a number.” According to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and their “Success Beyond 18” campaign, some success in youth staying in foster care beyond age 18 has already been measured, but more work needs to be done (Success Beyond 18). Extending the age cut-off and allowing transitioning young adults to continue to receive program services until they are fully prepared is the most appropriate means for increasing foster youth success because it is the most achievable and feasible means.
The above story is based on information provided by Huff Post Impact.
1. Stangler, G. [Web log post]. (2013, July 28). Aging Out of Foster Care: The Costs of Doing Nothing Affect Us All. Huff Post Impact. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-stangler/aging-out-of-foster-care-_b_3658694.html
2. Success Beyond 18. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://jimcaseyyouth.org/success-beyond-18
Margrove, R [Web log post]. (2012, May 17). Exam season has begun: feeling stressed? The Guardian.
Retrieved May 6, 2014 from http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2012/may/17/exam-survival-tips