Youth “Aging Out” of the Child Welfare System Defies the Odds, Transitions to Adulthood
Each year about 23,000 foster youth “age out” of the child welfare system in the United States when they turn 18. Most are seriously unprepared for life on their own. Frequently, they lack the most basic skills for living successfully outside a system that had previously made all their life decisions for them—something confirmed by statistics. These young adults need specific tools to overcome these odds.
Foster youth who have aged out are less likely to graduate high school, earn a college degree, and maintain employment. One in five ends up homeless, and nearly three-quarters of women are pregnant by 21.
Jayana, who turned 21 in July, is defying those odds. She entered the child welfare system at age 3, and ended up separated from her siblings. Her transitions while in the system made her young life unsettled and difficult, and she never felt like she belonged. She eventually was blessed with a strong, caring support system. But as she neared “aging out,” she realized she didn’t know how to be independent.
“I never had parents who taught me how to do things. Some really basic things,” Jayana says. “As I got closer to my 18th birthday, I was worried. I didn’t have the skills I needed, and I didn’t know a lot about the world. But I refused to be homeless.”
Foster youth who have aged out are less likely to graduate high school, earn a college degree, and maintain employment.
Olive Crest’s Project Independence strives to teach youth those needed skills. After Jayana learned about the program, she applied and was one of the first accepted into her local Olive Crest program. “We learned basic skills like house cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping,” Jayana says.