The Human and Financial Toll
Removed from family, displaced by the child welfare system and invisible to society, teens from foster care far too often become our community’s most lonely and disengaged adults. They leave the system largely unprepared and without the family relationships required to sustain them emotionally or financially as they enter adulthood.
With severed relationships and little hope, former foster youth at age 27 (compared to same age peers) are:
- Less likely to have a high school diploma (20% have none), to be pursuing higher education or to be earning a living wage.
- More likely to have experienced economic hardships and become involved with the criminal justice system as a victim or offender.
By age 19 nearly half of young women who have aged out of foster care have become pregnant. By age 20, nearly half of that group has experienced a second pregnancy.
In the most comprehensive longitudinal study ever done on young people who emancipated from foster care, Mark Courtney, et al described their findings from interviews when the youth were age 27 to be “disquieting, particularly if we measure the success of the young people in our study in terms of self-sufficiency during early adulthood. Across a wide range of outcome measures, including postsecondary educational attainment, employment, housing stability, public assistance receipt, and criminal justice system involvement, these former foster youth are faring poorly as a group.” (Courtney, M., Dworsky, A., Brown, A., Cary, C., Love, K., & Vorhies, V. (2011)).
In a survey of adults experiencing homelessness in Minnesota, 57% of those aged 18 to 21 had been in a child welfare placement. “Overall, youth with placement histories have higher rates of traumatic and stressful life experiences than those homeless youth who have never had a foster care or other social service placement. Youth with placement histories may also be at higher risk while homeless. They are more likely to stay outside, experience violence while homeless, and experience long-term homelessness.” (Analysis of Homeless Youth Age 18-21 with Previous Social Service Placements from the Minnesota Statewide Homelessness Study, Gerrard, et al, (2012)).
With each youth who leaves foster care and enters a life of experiencing homelessness, poverty, unemployment or crime, the community loses a potentially engaged citizen who contributes to building a strong community. Instead, society gains a lonely adult often in need of continued, expensive public support.
But Ampersand Families is creating a new model — one that engages young people, caring adults and the community to fulfill the promise of a committed, loving family for every youth. Adoption, of course, doesn’t fix everything, but we know that every young person does better with adults in their court- guiding, cheering and healing. Read more about how you can get involved.