By Kate Lodge, A Place 4 Me Project Director – Some people are shocked when they learn more about how the system works for young people. The things that “shock” us provide a window into where we might want to make changes as a community. A youth in foster care having reached the age of 18 and having graduated from high school is ready in the eyes of Ohio law for their county supervised custody to end. Youth often say “ I was terminated.” Another term used by youth and professionals is” emancipation” to mean the end of county custody. One typically associates termination with being fired, and emancipation with the end of slavery. Does the term “aging out” soften the blow about what is happening?I recently learned that 56% of 18-24 year olds live with their parents. The times are unforgiving for many young people, even those with means. That demographic pattern does not fit for the youth who simply don’t have family to return to when they age out.Ohio Fostering Connections Task Force
Ohio Fostering Connections Task Force was formed to bring together interested parties around the state to advocate for legislation to extend foster care to 21. We have a chance in Ohio to push for legislation to implement a big change from the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008, which 25 other states have already done.
A community forum held on July 16th invited over one hundred community partners to come together to look at the issues of extending foster care in Ohio. What would Ohio want to do differently so that the extension of foster care respects the developmental needs of older adolescents? That is just one of the questions being considered in this advocacy effort
Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008 (P.L.110-351)
All the states in the country were given the option of extending foster care to 21 in the Fostering Connections To Success Act (P.L 110-351) of 2008. Twenty –five states in the country have opted to create programs that give young people who would typically age out of care at 18 different options by making new laws. Young people in the 25 states who have extended foster care to 21 are given the option to voluntarily (as legal adults) continue foster care, which looks different with more options of living arrangements than just foster care or residential care. .
What the researchers say…
There has been research done on youth aging out of care in the Midwest Study of Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (which I will refer to as the Midwest Study for obvious reasons!) The research by Mark Courtney, et al, is significant in that it followed a cohort of young people at two year intervals so we could see how they were doing at 17, at 19, at 21 and so forth. They kept approximately 600 youth engaged in the study and they are now 26 years old. 50% experienced homelessness by age 25. One fourth of the young men are incarcerated. By age 21, 71% of the young people have had children. African Americans are disproportionally represented in all of these figures. The numbers take my breath away.
The youth who consult on A Place 4 Me all tell me, “I don’t want to be a statistic”. I hear it almost every day. They are all too aware of the risks ahead.
We have a chance to let our Ohio politicians know that extending foster care to 21 is the least we can do for young people who are 18 and about to be emancipated/terminated/aged out. We do not want to exchange a young persons involvement in foster care for their involvement in the justice system, impoverished with too many children, homeless, without support. We want to help them avoid becoming “ a statistic.” Contact your state representatives in support of House Bill 423. It is one step to help us raise a collective voice. Learn more about A Place 4 Me at http://www.ywcaofcleveland.org/aplace4me
Watch a short video about Bellefaire JCB/s Take a Closer Look at Youth Homelessness Campaign