Aging Out of Foster Care is a Disaster for Children

Children in the foster care system have typically already survived significant trauma or abuse, but as they grow older and approach aging out of the system, they face even more difficult odds. Children who reach 18 and adulthood in the foster care system without being adopted or having any family or mentor of their own have staggeringly high rates of imprisonment, homelessness, alcohol and substance abuse, and a myriad of other problems.

Children in the foster care system, or with a history of abuse and neglect, are at higher risk of being trapped in the Cradle to Prison Pipeline, the path by which the chances of an individual one day ending up in prison can be predicted based on factors present in his or her childhood, which make that child much more likely to end up incarcerated as an adult. Poverty is the largest driving force of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis, as defined by the Children’s Defense Fund.

In Texas, among all children, 1 in 4 (24.9 percent or 1,548,069) was poor. A baby is born poor every five minutes in the state:

o A Black baby is born poor every 32 minutes.
o A Latino baby is born poor every seven minutes.
o A White, non-Latino baby is born poor every 33 minutes.
o An American Indian/Alaska Native baby is born poor every 20 hours.
o An Asian baby is born poor every nine hours.

Other factors that significantly impact the odds of a child entering the Cradle to Prison Pipeline include lack of early childhood education, poor education received later, disadvantaged health care, experienced violence, and simply being a person of color. Children in the foster care system often experience one or more of these factors, as well as losing their birth home and parents, and dealing with the trauma of abuse or neglect. These children are desperately in need of a family to call their own. They are in danger of falling through the cracks and being lost forever without one.

Recently, Dr. Tracy Eilers, a friend of mine and director of The Heart Gallery, sent me the following information about a boy, Jarod, who is about to age out of the foster care system and has almost given up hope on a family to call his own. The prospects for kids who age out of the system are grim.

Dr. Eilers says, “18 isn’t a good thing for kids in foster care.” Sent out on their own with no one to care for them or teach them how to be an adult in the world, half of these kids end up homeless. “Week after week, we film segments for Forever Families… week after week, I meet the most amazing kids… and every second of every day I hope beyond all hope that we can make a difference in these kids lives… I don’t know if I have ever hoped so much as for Jarod.”

Last year at this time, Jarod was showing off his Junior ROTC uniform for his Forever Families segment. He was 15-years-old and only recently decided he wanted to be adopted. Jarod’s goal was to become a Sergeant, but he moved from foster home to foster home this year, and isn’t in ROTC anymore. The rest of year has been filled with just as many disappointments, and now his outlook on life is bleak. No 16-year-old should feel this hopeless.

Jarod came in to foster care when he was 10-years-old from his uncle’s house, where there were five kids, Jarod and his sister, and their three cousins. Jarod was the one who had to go into foster care.

He’s had a very hard time trusting adults, and who could blame him? Now he’s 16-years-old and repeating the 9th grade. In two years, he’ll age out of the foster care system. Foster teens on their own are at a higher risk of homelessness and substance abuse. “To me, it seems like it’s too late. For life, I guess. When I turn 18, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.

Jarod’s anger, frustration, and confusion have caused him to give up on adoption. His aunt was going to adopt him, but it wasn’t a good fit. They lived together for a month, but kept getting into fights. Now Jarod is in a shelter, where he says things aren’t going well.

“I got in trouble because I broke a door. I feel mad all the time. It’s not foster care; it’s not being adopted. It’s just when I turn 18, what am I going to do? Am I going to be on the streets? I don’t know what I’m going to do. I barely got an education. Ain’t nothing to do,” he said.

Jarod is out of hope. He feels he’s out of time and he has no idea what to do about it. Ask about his future, and he shuts down. Though Jarod seems to have given up on himself, he still has another year.

Watch the News8Austin video clip of Jarod’s story.

Many children like Jarod have new hope through the innovative initiative, The Heart Gallery. This program combines professional portraits by renowned documentary and portrait photographers of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted with art show-style exhibits around the country.

Dr. Eilers, of the Adoption Coalition of Texas, led the formation of the Heart Gallery of Central Texas several years ago. The goal of The Heart Gallery of Central Texas is to elicit support for and interest in the lives of these children – and ultimately find each child and sibling group a “forever family.”

At any given moment, there are 500 children waiting for adoption in the Central Texas foster care system, all removed from their natural family due to abuse or neglect. The Heart Gallery process helps break down common misconceptions regarding adoption and promotes the idea that if you can provide a safe and loving home for a child, even if you are a single individual or do not own a home, you can still adopt.

“It’s extraordinary to know that in just the two years of the Heart Gallery program, over 60% of the children featured in portraits were adopted,” said Dr. Eilers. “This remarkable rate of success proves this effort has been effective in raising awareness for the kids and the Central Texas foster care system overall. Every year after the debut, we receive thousands of phone calls and emails from all over the country and we want that to keep happening.”

“Seeing these children in photographs as they laugh and play is a very powerful experience. We want to inspire people to learn more about adopting from the foster care system. Our whole purpose is to humanize these children, display their personalities, and give a glimpse into their souls,” explained Eilers.

32 Responses to “Aging Out of Foster Care is a Disaster for Children”

  1. Ouida Turner April 21, 2008 at 7:12 am #

    I am interested in establishing a independant living community in Pembrook Township to service kankakee, will and Iroquis County. I need more information and I am running into barriers with the Kankakee County rules for placing modular homes.

  2. Alvertis Fernandez May 8, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    I agid out of foster care, and i am going throw hell i have 3 children one thay took from me in foster care. I am looking for help in finding him. he is going to be 11 years old and i need to know how he is. I am 27 now i spent 10 years in foster care i went throw hell in foster care i would love to tell my story to some one how will lisson i cant spell good but i know that some one will help me call me at 857-869-3308 please i would love to let people know what realy happins to us to yong girls and boy’s out there .

  3. Jo Ann Duncan September 27, 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    We would like to open our home to a youth aging out of foster care.

    Thank you.
    Jo Ann Duncan

  4. HeadMutha October 2, 2008 at 1:05 pm #

    Jo Ann,

    I am emailing you personally.

    Rocky

  5. Christy October 8, 2008 at 6:49 am #

    I have often thought of opening my home to a young person aging out of foster care. I still have one small son at home, so it would have to be a person who would be safe to be around my son.

  6. amberly December 29, 2008 at 10:43 pm #

    i wish there were more programs to help people like me who age out of the system and have nowhere to go, i am now 23, and always on the verge of being homeless, i am a single mom now, and just to keep a roof over our heads i am a live in nanny for a lady that wont even pay me because she realizes i have nowhere to go.

  7. Allene February 13, 2009 at 7:39 am #

    I aged out when I was seventeen, since I have had to struggle with the basics in life. I am now thirty and have a family and own our home. I am finishing college to become an accountant. I have had to deal with mental and emotional problems since I aged out. I feel like it is my responsibilty to do something for someone aging out. Even if it is helping them find a place to live or a job. I know the biggest thing I needed was someone to be my advocate, to have my back. So many people take advantage of kids who have no one. I NEED to help.

  8. Becky February 20, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    I would love to hear your stories if you aged out of the system and/or if you thought about helping these kids delayed that decision and why.

    I believe the more stories we can sent to congress can make better chances of kids that do need to go into care get the services they really need. Risemeup.org is just a temporary band aid if it’s successful but not an answer.

  9. Alvertis Fernandez February 28, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    I am talking about my life, I would like to write a book about my life in foster care, I don’t know how to go about it or if any one would like to here about it, I think I will need some help, well my phone # is 857-869-3308 my email is alvertisfernandez@yahoo.com, so if you would like to here a little and fined out wut it wus like for me and all the other kids I hung out with, please get back to me, I need to get this for my chest and on to some one it mite help, wile helping me.

  10. Julia Wynn March 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    I am doing a research paper on aging out of foster care? Do you happen to have the statistics for 2008 on approximately how many children aged out of foster care and needed continued fostering? PMC and TMC

    If you do not have any statistics, could you maybe direct me to a source that may?

    Thanks, Julia Wynn

  11. Todd Smith March 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    I am not a mom but a Dad my wife and i have adopted 3 boys 2 of which were 15 and 14 now 16 and 18 we have 6 sons all together we love these adopted boys as our oun they bring so much joy. i wanted to save them from ageing out and have no one. they will always have usif u have a heart adopt a teen they need u. We now want to help a teen ageing out that has no one maby give them a home help with work car food and they still need a mom and dad it doesnt matter the age. We want to try this dont know if it will work but will go into it with a possitive heart others should think about it. thanks for listening and foster kids and grouphome kids there r people who love u very much u just have to fond them. email me i love the stories
    dadt6@yahoo.com

  12. Mike Buliln March 21, 2009 at 8:49 am #

    After reading an article in the dallas morning news a few years ago (like 5) I have been aware of the problem of youth aging out. I feel called to help, and I can’t get the stories and images of these kids out of my mind. I am a 6’7 280 lb guy that bursts into tears as i think about the situations that these kids are in, simply because they are getting older. Each and every one of these kids deserves a chance to succeed. Each one deserves our best efforts. It takes a village to raise a child. Simple skills like balancing a check book, getting on line, paying bills, healthy shopping and cooking, how to iron a shirt…..not to mention the love that has beed with held and the abuses (emotional mental physical…..and substance) that they have had to endure. We must help these kids. I can’t imagine a more horrible plight in this contry than to be abused, unloved and left to fend for yourself alone with little to no skill sets, and less money. What can I do?? Where do I start??

  13. Ameena LN March 24, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    I am founding a non profit for youth that have fallen threw the cracks our at risk youth this organization will provide housing, advanced education, life skills training and resources to its long term residents that will age out of the system (as well as abondoned & runaways) and I am seeking passionate people that would like to help in building this foundation from almost the ground floor. I am seeking assistance from all skill levels all you have to do is have the desire to help. Board positions have not been occupied so their is a great opportunity for growth with a great cause. Our organizations institutions will change the outcomes of youth emancipating from the system nationwide. email me at godsmeenie@yahoo.com thank you soo much for your time.

  14. linda hogans March 26, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    I think what is happen to these young adults is really wrong i have meet a lot of mothers that have aged out of foster care with childen and have no clue how thay are going to make it i am a child care provider and meet a lot of young mothers that have been throw ageing out some call it throw away i have been trying to come up with a program that would help young adults ageing out this is something that is a must they need help no one i talk to seem to now how i can help if there’s anyone who know’s how i can get started please let me know i have a home that i would like to use for young aldult ageing out of foster care

  15. JULIANA burgrss April 9, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    truth.. im 12 years old and im still in the foster care sytem.. its been 11 hard months without my mom were can kids like me get the support to get out?? ive been looking for an outlet for a long time it was doggs cats animals reall, but then life as i knew it keep getting worse with every month that past i was spirling down out of control and no one was stoping me i was going to weed,coke hairwen i was stuck and i was doing it right under all 7 of my foster homes noses right their in their home and they never noteced me i thoght them were supposted to be monetering but insted the kids they have are just a pay chek.. thank you alot julianna burgess

  16. Lisa Leppek April 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    I have been looking for information and planning to try and develop a organization to help kids timed out of the system. I would have been further with this, but my husband has been laid off since November. I thought it best to settle our situation first, but have reconsidered. I am sure that these children, young adults have encountered more than this and just need someone anyone to care enough to show them they matter. One thing I don’t want is something that will cause them or the people willing to help to deal with the bureaucracy that failed them. I want to start a chain of host families willing to take in these kids into there homes and familes and see them through to college. I do think that trying get a tax credit for this will help people to consider this and legislation passed for it would be a plus. I live in Michigan, and decided to push froward with this as a positive way to spend our time instead of focusing on his lay off! God will provide and always has for us. So any comments to our help in how to start me off on this venture would be great. Oh, I should mention we were foster parents but due to the very flawed system here we closed our license but still have a passion to help these kids!

    Thanks for any comments
    Lisa

  17. nathan phillips May 4, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    I met my son when he was in foster care and i was in a mentoring type program. When he was 12 I was his “big brother” , when he aged out of the system he asked me to adopt him and I did. Here we are 10 years later, and I love him as much as if he were my biological son. Anyway, I have often thought of opening up my home to another aged out youth, with the idea of giving him a parent. Please if you can help me help someone else I would love to hear from you.
    Thanks, Nathan

  18. ALS May 6, 2009 at 3:18 am #

    I am the director of an organization similar to the one you are seeking to operate in the East Texas region & seeking people who would be interested in administration and operation of my facility which is designed to house approx 75 youth when complete later this year.

  19. Patrick Wodkins May 11, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    I spent almost 15 years in the foster care system in the state of Pennsylvaina. I witnessed first hand how some of the foster parents would mistreat the foster children. It happened to me. I want to tell any foster child who reads this very good article that YOU can beat the odds of the foster care system. It is very hard but you can do it.

  20. Luis A Ayala May 20, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Hi julianna this is luis never give up
    Don’t do drugs love yourself call a tv
    Station or radio station try to get them to tell
    Your story that u want your mother back
    Nothing is impossible live large believe in
    Miracles. I 40 years old I never had kids
    Went to college 2 years got two year degree
    But never got good job because personal
    Problems I had learning disabilites but
    Managed to get associate degree 3 years
    Ago I had nothing I always lived with my parents
    Spent all my money trying to make people
    Like me I went to jail 1 year in 2001
    But 2 and half years ago started saving
    I now have two jobs and 20,000 dallors
    Jobs are hard to find now and with record
    It’s harder but I have two jobs nothing
    Is impossible u have to get your story out
    To public

  21. Lakisha Morris May 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    I am interested in knowing more about young adults who are aging out of foster care. I am currently doing a study on this very important problem that we all face today, I think that your story will help me in fighting the cause. I am trying to adovate for more housing, jobs and social networking for young adults. The stories that I have heard thus far, has really touched my heart and I think that others need to hear it as well. This is not just your problem its a problem for communities aboard. Please feel free to reach out to me. I would like to help whoever i can.

    Peace,
    Many Blessings

  22. bev July 2, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    i am 25 years old and my seventeen year old half sister will be aging out of the system in august.i moved out of state 3 years ago.i had tried contacting her through the group home but she had ran away.she has just now contacted me after almost 4 years (i have had the same phone number) i don’t know what to do.i realize i don ‘t even know her but i do know i love her.i do know by talking to the director of the group home that she has been in serious truoble and is most likely not going to graduate high school. i have very mixed emotions and just don’t know what to do.i have a husband and a 5 year old daughter at home.i am afraid if she comes to live with us what this may do to our lives.please help any advice would be appreciated

  23. Patty July 5, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

    If Texas would lighten up about the CPR requirement to be foster parents, I think a lot of folks who are not physically able to give CPR would make wonderful foster parents. My husband and I both have health reasons that make it impossible to give CPR, but we are healthy otherwise. We have a loving home and are financially stable and could offer one or more children a safe home, but we don’t qualify and that’s a shame.

    It’s also a shame that children who have been tossed around in the “system” most of their lives, suddenly at 18, feel like they are getting tossed in the streets. Surely there is a way for foster kids to get some kind of vocational training, a driver’s license and other tools necessary for surviving in the world. Don’t we owe them at least a fighting chance of making it before we just dump them.

  24. Lakita July 9, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    I will be 23 next month. I aged out of foster care when I was 18 years old. I felt like I had no where to go so I joined the military. I did it for patriotic reasons, but also for the assurance that I would always have a job, and a place to stay. It is very hard out here for children that age out of foster care. And once you’re out, you have no one to turn to for help. The system in Georgia completely stops helping you with everything once you hit 21. I recently left the military and started going to college and I am taking up psychology with the hope of someday working with foster youth. I know its a stretch, but for the youth’s lives that I touch, I want to give them what I didnt have while growing up in foster care, such as a good role model, and someone who can relate to them because I’ve been through what they are now facing. Not someone who just treats their foster kids as an extra paycheck, or a group home staff who comes to work clocks in and when their shift is over, clocks out as simple as that. I really wish that it were something I could do for the children in foster care now. I dont want to fail them like the foster care system failed me. Anyone with any suggestions on how I could help, please feel free to contact me at lakitagaither@yahoo.com

  25. Leslie Mester September 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    Shelley,
    This is a wonderful article about such an important topic. After being a foster parent for several years, a CASA for the last 7 years, I have several young adults that I keep up with just so that they know someone loves and cares about them. They need someone who is on their side and believes in them. Just one person that they can call when things are tough and they need encouragement. It’s not too hard to believe in them, they are remarkable and inspiring and have the tenacity to make it through the hard times. I hope that others will also give some time to these young adults. CASA is a really good way to spend a small amount of time and make a huge difference.

  26. Hannah September 10, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    I would love to join this site and support all the things that it stands for. I have much to say also being a child who was in care from 4-21 yrs old. You could not fathom what happened to me in all those yrs and none were good. But, contact me. I am willing to be interviewed and published in efforts to do more research on this. Thank you.
    Hannah
    F 24 yrs old
    NYC
    917 544 7592

  27. Amber September 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    I aged out of foster care when i was eighteen, just like most do. But unfortunately, there was no assistance for me. Since i was only in care for 4 months time, i couldnt get into any IL programs or anything. My mother isnt there to help me and now im in a shelter trying to figure out what i can do to make myself better. Its hell everyday and i want to make something out of myself, but i cant get on my feet. Its a daily battle that im scared i wont win.

  28. deb in alaska October 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi, I have been a foster parent for 8 years back when my kids were younger. I did not have older children in my home, but at the time knew I needed to help them. The only thing holding me back at that time was the fear I may lose my kids,I found it difficult to like how the system worked. With a strong background with Social Service and me feeling this way, I just could imigan only half of what the Children in the system felt. It breaks my heart knowing I can give my kids what every child should not be without and the system make it worse for those who desperatly need the love. With this in mind over the years watching my babies grow into adults I knew what my calling was. I want to take my 10 acars of land and somehow use this to build homes for the kids “aging out” and help them find resorces and giv e them hope along with the security of love to move on. Anyone out there, please give me advise on were I could start as far as grants, volunteers, churches, organizations, anything can help! I have the plan and know my goals. What I dont want is this to turn into a “system”, but I know privatly own can sometimes run into difficulties too. I want to know how to approach it right so when we do hit the hard times we will be able to handle it in the manner it comes. Thanks Deb knitgal_05@hotmail.com

  29. audrey bryant October 19, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    I live in Michigan and I have a desire to open my home to aged out youth. how do I get started, I want to help these young people asap please contact me at 313-948-9991

  30. S. Williams December 7, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    I am interested in opening a home for youth aging out of foster care. I would like to provide a warm loving environment, acting as an extended family. The home will offer life skills and whatever else is needed to make the young person a outstanding citizen. I have funds to begin the service, however open for ideas and grants if they are available. I live in Michigan.

  31. A Clark January 12, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    Check out what country artist Jimmy Wayne is doing…

    http://meetmehalfway.jimmywayne.com/

    Also, WYCD has some great information on their page about aid to homeless youth in the Detroit area…

    http://wycd.com/Jimmy-Wayne-kicks-off–Meet-Me-Halfway–trek-/5390750?pid=2921

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