My desire to work with young persons that are at risk whether in foster care or out is not by happenstance, nor a fleeting fancy. I have always enjoyed working with our youth. I love their conversation, I love their zest for life, and perhaps because I was a so called “moody” teenager I have their angst. I have had the pleasure over my life both in the field of juvenile probation and youth counseling to meet some of the most unique, talented observant, yet challenging adolescents and teenagers. And amid my talking to them, and their sharing with me something in confidence and sometimes in the Walmart- “Hey Ms. Connie I’m going to the prom.” Or “I got my license”. Sometimes I would say great, and other times I would say, where did you park? Yet no matter what the situation, they were always happy to see a familiar face, a steadfast and stable force they knew. Consistency! This is what they are seeking, that quality of being faithful. The knowing that there will be steadiness in their lives. They want what any child wants. To be loved, to be secure, to have family. I don’t think that this is too much to ask. Do you? Just a little time to do what needs to be done, and if not done right the first time. It’s ok. We have options, we have programs, we also have a roadmap to go by, a sort of GPS. No too difficult and just a little planning.
Our future young people in foster care are at risk of homelessness when transitioning out. This risk is at an all-time high, they should and can be afforded the same opportunities as those young people living permanent households. When not given their chance of homelessness increases dramatically. Now, there is a way to prevent this? I know some of you are scratching your heads, and thinking HOW? How can we do this? While others are silently wondering WHY? Why should we do this? We should and must because this is our future and when we invest in our future be profit from that investment.
So, come with me and let us look and the how’s, the why’s, as well as the who’s and what’s. So why? Why is it so important for a young person in foster care to have such a smooth transition? What could anyone possible benefit from the smooth transition. How does a smooth transition look for that matter? First It is important to recognize that many youths can and do leave care to become healthy and productive adults. “ 1. Youth in care often have or develop remarkable resiliency—the ability to cope with or recover from adversity.” As a community we must become engaged, we must and need to be proactive, and yes, we need to be accepting. Young people need to be safe and the evaluation of their safety should be developmentally suitable and free from variables that exaggerate their risk and undervalue any social experience they may have had. 2. "Young people need to learn how to be economically sound and have opportunities to practice their financial skills as they manage their assets”, A part of this is for them to participate in the workforce and be able to conduct business with mainstream financial institutes.
We as a community must begin to understand and recognize that family is critically important in the lives of these young people and their definition of family and network of supportive relationships are theirs, and should be explored, respected and appropriately included into their life planning efforts.
Young People when engaged in all these areas can transitions smoothly from foster care to permanent housing. How can this approach be implemented? Boy this is a good question. Well, know this, it is going to take all of us. Everyone! The entire village so to speak.
a) First, we must assist our young people (Notice I say our, because they are Ours) in getting access to the services they need. These services must be all-inclusive, flexible, and capable of meeting the young person’s needs as they begin their transition.
b) Second, we must know what their available support systems are. Once we found this out, we then make them a part of the process. As the process begins, we included both formal and informal support.
c) Then, finally, develop a youth/adult partnership. A partnership built on trust and honesty, be truthful, be realistic and be their partner in transition to this independent life.
While these actions may take some time, remember this is an investment in a young person life, an investment in the community AND an investment in as our nation as a hold. Young People when engaged in all these areas can transitions smoothly from foster care to permanent housing. So now you know. This is how it really works! Yes, it is a holistic approach. But it is a necessary plan which cannot be deviated from. There is one thing that we do know, it is going to take all of us. Everyone! The entire village so to speak. For this investment in our community is worth more than any cost that we shall bare.
Resource information to support youth transition to adulthood in multiple areas
1. http://www.itsmymove.org/training_resources_ life skills. php Resources to Inspire Guide: Casey Life Skills (Casey Family Programs) https://www.casey.org/media/CLS_ResourceGuides_ ResourcestoInspire.docx
2. Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2016). Supporting youth aging out of foster care through SNAP. Retrieved from https://cssp.org/resource/supporting-youthaging-out-of-foster-care-through-snap/
3. Foster Youth in Transition (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)
http://www.michigan.gov/fyit Transition & Aging Out (Youth.gov)
4. http://youth.gov/youth-topics/transition-age-youth Foster Care Transition Toolkit (U.S. Department of Education)
Life in itself can be difficult to navigate. But when you are a young person and there is the added factor of being in foster care this navigation gets complicated. Our young people in foster care should be provided with the same opportunities afforded young people from permanent households. When this opportunity does not present itself, the likely hood of a foster care youth becoming homeless after transitioning to independence rises significantly.