Former foster youth need to know they are not abandoned
Buckner President and CEO Albert Reyes shares about National Aging Out of Foster Care Awareness Day on Baptist News Global and reflects on what we can do to support foster youth to set them up for a successful future.
A few years ago, I noticed a small crack in the hallway of my doctor’s office. It was only five or six inches long, but my eyes drifted back to that spot each time I returned for a checkup. Then one day it was gone — likely spackled and painted over by the building maintenance team.
The repair was surface level. It was enough so that most of us will never give the crack another thought. Literally out of sight, out of mind.
Our perception of foster care in the United States reminds me of the painted-over crack. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports there are more than 400,000 children in foster care each year. These are kids ranging in age from babies to teenagers with the average age being 6 and a half.
And while most children spend about one year in foster care, there are some in foster care for much longer — sometimes until they turn 18 and are considered legal adults.
Nationally, more than 20,000 youth age out of foster care every year. They may no longer be part of HHS’s foster care statistics, but that doesn’t mean their struggles are over.
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
But what happens for those who don’t receive the life lessons they need?
According to a past survey by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 40% to 50% of foster youth become homeless within 18 months of aging out, while 50% of the homeless population spent time in foster care.
These young adults need to know they are not alone just because they turn 18. There are programs and organizations to support them, from finding a job and housing to going to college. Equally important is a need to raise awareness about the struggles of former foster youth so we can show them we care about what happens to them — and that God cares about what happens to them.