10 February 2017
Youths in the Foster System
People who age out of the foster system, are seen as disposable to this day. Today, “more than 25,000 people age out of the foster system” (On Their Own 161) because they became of age to not be cared for anymore. These children can face having to move to many different homes in their life. They move not because their parents are securing new jobs, but because they have to switch families in the system to try find a forever home. These children are left to fend for themselves while being provided with no money, receiving little to no healthcare, and gaining support emotionally.
Youths that are coming to the age of “aging out,” gain no money to help support their basic needs. These youths often struggle to find food, shelter, and other basic needs without financial support. Unfortunately, “Many live on the streets, lack the money to meet basic living expenses, fail to maintain regular employment, are involved with the criminal justice system, are unable to obtain health care, and experience early pregnancies” (Reilly, Thorn 727), which makes it even harder to gain the money that they need to support themselves, and maybe even a child. These youths are likely to live under these terms, because they have no access to money to buy nice clothes for interviews, they have no money to pay for housing, and are likely to steal items that they need, because they aren’t being provided for what they used to receive while in foster care. Even the people with special needs, receive hardly any money to help pay for any medical help that they need. One challenging way to gain money can be through, “the SSI program [which] provides payments to people with low income who are aged, blind, or disabled and who meet strict eligibility rules.” (King et al 54). There can be a way to gain money through the program however, the process can be challenging. People with disabilities have to learn to live on their own, with no money which could be given to them through funds however, funds are used for other groups of people that are seen as more important. Many youths that have to go through this with a disability, “face the sudden loss of financial support when they age out of the system and many must find an alternative source of support.” (King et al 53).” Although, they are given the opportunity to apply to receive the SSI, a little amount of the people meet the requirements to gain the financial support.
On another topic, these youths are at a high risk of having to live homeless, unemployed, and at risk with the law. These people aren’t taught how to live in a way that will help support them because, they weren’t taught it in the foster system, especially with having to switch foster homes multiple times. Many of these people have, “portray[ed]’ largely unhappy endings of sudden homelessness, unemployment, dead-end jobs, loneliness, and despair.” (On Their Own 161). They are like this because they have a less stable environment to live in with having to switch homes several times.
Furthermore, once these youths age out of the foster system, healthcare can be hard to access. Many people that have aged out are in need of help with their health and are not able to receive the help they need. Many youths experience health issues and have “reported serious health care problems—30% had had a serious health problem since leaving care, 32% needed health care and could not obtain it, and 55% had no type of health insurance,” (Reilly, Thorn 736). This shows that many people are in need of healthcare that are aged out of the system however, they don’t receive the help due to the fact that not easily accessible. They are not given the help they need because they have no money and nobody is willing to help them if they don’t have money.
Another way that shows that healthcare isn’t easily accessible, is due to the fact that these youths have more complex needs need such as, disabilities and illnesses that are not easily curable, which makes it even harder to gain access to healthcare. The harder the case is, the less likely people are willing to help out. “Adolescents in foster care have complex health care needs that call for more intensive and comprehensive services compared to those not in foster care.” (Lopez et al 345). The fact that they need more intensive care, makes them less likely to receive help because they know it will be more expensive. These youths are less likely to ask for help or receive help, because they have no money, along with having no way to contact people to ask for help from.
Another way that the many youths who have aged out are seen as disposable is that they gain no emotional support to make it through the difficult time that they have to deal with. They are left with no one to care for them, as well as help them make important life decisions. A young man was interviewed on the radio to share what his experience with the foster system was. During his interview, he shared a speech that he wrote to the foster system in general. He shares his opinion with them saying, “It’s bittersweet because I’m losing guaranteed stipends for food and housing, as well as access to my social workers and my lawyer. But on the other hand, I’m relieved to finally get away from a system that ultimately failed me on its biggest promise. That one day it would find me a family who would love me.” (After 20 Years). He shared that he also gave up on the foster system by the time that he was around 12 because he knew that once he hit that certain age, no one would be looking to adopting him into their family. He shows that many people in the system are seen as disposable because once they hit that certain age, they are given up on because not many people want to adopt teenagers.
Many people who have recently exited the system, have been seen as having unhappy ending because they weren’t ever helped once they exited the system. They “portray largely unhappy endings of sudden homelessness, unemployment, dead-end jobs, loneliness, and despair.” (On Their Own 161). They don’t have a support system to help the through the many trials they will have once they are dropped into the real world all alone with no help emotionally or financially. They aren’t helped which can lead them to be depressed and have those unhappy endings occur because they don’t have anyone there to help them through the hard time that they are facing.
Another way that these youths are seen as disposable, is the fact that they are usually only seen as ‘just a number’. During Noel Anaya’s speech, he shares, “Little things, like when my judge Shawna Schwarz mispronounces my name, serve as a constant reminder that, “Hey, I’m just a number.” (After 20 Years). The people that have to deal with his case see the scenario and the youth as just numbers, because that is what they have been told to do. When they are talking to the youth, they don’t show respect. As Noel said, the people who were supposed to be on his side, helping him, saw him as just a number.
In addition, these youths gain no emotional support, is that they have nobody to encourage him or her to continue throughout school. Many youths who were once in foster care, drop out of high school because no one was there to help them want to make that step in life. Studies have shown that, “Educational achievement escapes many of these youth, with completion rates of high school as low as 34%.” (Reilly, Thorn 728). These youths don’t have anyone to encourage him or her to stick with it. The normal for them, is to just drop out of school, which makes them not receive jobs as easily.
All in all, youths who have experienced the foster system are seen as disposable. They don’t receive any money to help them cover any expenses that they might have. They hardly ever gain health care due to them not meeting the regulations set to allow them to gain a little bit of money which won’t help them with how expensive the treatment can be. They also, have no emotional support to make it through hard times. These youths are seen as disposable, because they are seen as people who don’t need help, or they aren’t noticed because not many people know much about the foster system.
“After 20 Years, Young Man Leaves Foster Care On His Own Terms.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017. <http://www.npr.org/2017/01/11/508608745/after-20-years-young-man-leaves-foster-care-on-his-own-terms>.
King, Laura, and Aneer Rukh-Kamaa. “Youth Transitioning Out Of Foster Care: An Evaluation Of A Supplemental Security Income Policy Change.” Social Security Bulletin 73.3 (2013): 53. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
“On Their Own: What Happens To Kids When They Age Out Of The Foster Care System.” Journal Of Social Work Education 41.1 (2005): 161. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
Lopez, Patricia, and Patricia Jackson Allen. “Addressing The Health Needs Of Adolescents Transitioning Out Of Foster Care.” Pediatric Nursing 33.4 (2007): 345-355. Consumer Health Complete. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
Reilly, Thorn. “Transition From Care: Status And Outcomes Of Youth Who Age Out Of Foster Care.” Child Welfare 82.6 (2003): 727. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 13 Jan. 2017.