Many foster youths face a future of homelessness
You don’t usually associate foster kids with homelessness. They are taken in, right? They have foster parents to look after them, right? It’s not like they are abandoned, right? Well, not right at all. The following story illustrates the problem when foster kids grow out of foster care. There is that point, you see, where they no longer warrant payments to their parents for their care. They age out and get a small payment (or none at all) that is supposed to get them a foothold in life as an adult. But at 18, they are really still just kids.
By Sara Steffens, MEDIANEWS STAFF
Article Last Updated: 05/06/2007Read the rest of this story hereWhen a foster youth becomes homeless, no one social worker, guardian or child welfare department is to blame. Like most states, California has failed to provide an effective safety net for the more than 4,000 children who age out of its foster care system each year.
In ordinary circumstances, young adults count on continued financial and emotional support from their families and are almost never completely on their own after turning 18. The average parent spends $44,500 on a child after he or she becomes an adult, “and that doesn’t include the kid being still in his room at home,” said Robert Fellmeth, executive director of Children’s Advocacy Institute, based at the University of San Diego School of Law.
By contrast, foster youths get a median of $5,000 in public support after aging out of care. “Most kids don’t get anything,” Fellmeth said. “Most kids get zero. (They get) ‘Hit the streets with your clothes in your trash bag.’”
One study says that at least one in five former foster children becomes homeless within a few years of becoming a legal adult. Other research, using broader criteria for homelessness, sets the figure as high as half. In recent years, a number of programs have begun trying to help better prepare foster children for independence.But public and volunteer services remain fragmented, sporadic and largely symbolic, Fellmeth said. “The problem is scale,” he said. “The problem is (lawmakers) want to feel good and not spend the money.” In the face of tough odds, some former foster youths do manage to finish their education and build productive lives, many with the help of service programs.
Foster kids are out there too
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