Aging Out in the United States
Youth aging out of state care face a series of challenges, from housing needs to the knowledge of life skills. The collection of posts we will be publishing in the following months will be titled "Glimpses" as we look at the situation being faced by youth aging out worldwide. Today, we’re looking at statistics in the U.S. and a few organizations that are having an impact in this community!
While in the States there is an acknowledged degree of “adulthood” at the ages of 18 or 21, very few people consider youth that age ready to live life independently, however that is often the case for kids aging out of the system. In 2013, 23,090 kids aged out of state care and about 90,000 kids were waiting and eligible to be adopted.
Kids exiting foster care in America typically face higher levels of incarceration, homelessness and unemployment. Young women aging out of the system have higher rates of teen pregnancy, which can become a cycle for that family to be stuck in the welfare system.
Statistics from a California organization indicate that between 50 and 80 percent of commercially sexually exploited children in California in 2012 had been involved with the child welfare system (California Against Slavery Research and Education). While some of these kids may have exited the system by running away rather than aging out, we should be aware of the problem created by going from vulnerable situation to vulnerable situation.
What can I do?
While these opportunities happen pre-aging out, these are significant ways to impact a child’s life!
"Teen Leadership Foundation is a national network mobilizing and equipping people to support foster teens. This organization offers support and guidance for teens prior to being 'aged-out' of the foster care system. Their programs provide avenues in which the teens can enter the adult world having a support basis surrounding them. Their programs offer faith, hope and avenues for success. Teen Leadership Foundation is now offering a new [free] e-booklet, Teen Leadership Solution, explaining more about their program of spiritual care and mentoring and more.”
"CASA/GAL volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA/GAL volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives."
"In the United States alone, there are some 25 million youth growing up fatherless. This is a personal tragedy and a collective epidemic. Countless statistics tell us that children from fatherless homes are more likely to: drop out of school, become teenage parents, join gangs and experiment with drugs. The fatherless story is not ending well.
We believe this can change... Our President, John Sowers often says, 'This generation has been wounded the most in relationships - it is in relationships where the healing must begin.' We believe that mentoring is a way to rewrite the fatherless story. Mentors are the 'quiet heroes' of the community investment movement."
The church has a role to play in the story of America! We need to be asking the hard questions and seeking the Lord's guidance on things that seem so big! Let's be aware of the situation faced by youth in our nation and seek out how we are to respond.
Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.