Children are a vulnerable part of our society and when not cared for properly, they can end up spending a majority of their youth in the child welfare system. The question is, what happens when these children who have grew up in foster care become adults and are forced to enter into a society that sets them up for failure? I currently work with youth in the foster care system and see first hand the challenges these young people face as they prepare for adulthood. I will never forget the first time I witnessed this fear in one of the teenagers I worked with. He was a 17 years old known as for being the "tough guy", not scared of anything, full of life and always confident. As he sat next to me, all dressed up to go to court he anxiously played with his fingers. He awaited the news to find out his next step in his difficult journey, he asked with tears in his eyes "What do I do? The staff here are all I have known as family for the past 13 years." He was in and out of this placement 9 different times, staying over a year at time. I always knew the children I work would grow up, but I realized in this moment, the difficulty most of these children will face in the days to come as they age out of the foster care system. This paper will discuss some of the issues and policies involved as youth age out of foster care system and into society.
Description of the problem.
An individual is only considered a child until their 18th birthday. A child legally becomes an adult overnight, however children are not always ready for that adult role just because their age dictates so. When growing up in the child welfare system, often times the children have no choice. As these young people approach legal adulthood, they face tremendous obstacles, including the unrealistic expectation that they will be able to succeed on their own just because they hit that particular age.