Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system.
Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth are often left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations. Compared to other youth in the United States, kids who age out of foster care are more likely to not have completed high school or received a GED, they often suffer from mental health problems, many are unemployed and live in poverty, and nearly 40% become homeless.
Many Youth Move from Foster Care to Homelessness as They Turn 18
Every year, 20,000 youth in foster care are left to care for themselves because they are too old and no longer qualify for placement with foster families.
Most 18-year-olds haven’t yet developed strong-enough life skills to enable them to live on their own, and yotuh coming out of foster care are usually even less prepared for independent living.
More than one-third of these young adults never finish high school, and many don’t have jobs. Their rates of arrest, health problems, and welfare dependency are far higher than those of the population as a whole – as is their rate of homelessness.
The government offers little help to former foster care youth who have aged out of the system, so it’s not that surprising that they often wind up on the streets or in jail. There are many fortunate ones, though, who find their way to Covenant House Washington.
One-third or more of the homeless youth who come to Covenant House Washington are coming from the foster care system. Here, through our Rights of Passage program, they can cross an important bridge to self-sufficiency and independence. They have the chance to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to transition from being a helpless youth to an independent adult.
But the problem is still much larger than we are. The welfare of our youth, including the thousands who come out of foster care every year, is always present on the Covenant House Washington advocacy agenda.
Through ongoing advocacy efforts, we’re working to bring broader attention to faults within the foster care system – to help young adults who are too old for the system yet still too young to take care of themselves – so they never land on the streets in the first place.