Transitioning Foster Youth, ages 18-21, have always been of primary concern to those of us who have witnessed the heartache so many of them have experienced.
These children have been moved from home to home with a multitude of adults coming in and out of their lives. This lack of stability leaves little opportunity for them to develop the independent living skills necessary to move forward and succeed in life.
Although these young people are filled with wonderful potential, they are often left behind by our schools and communities. If these disenfranchised youths continue to be overlooked, we will find enormous negative impact to not only these individuals but to the community as a whole.
What can anyone do to make a difference? Research has proven that young people transitioning out of foster care can succeed with the support and guidance of caring adults.
I have observed, first hand, the hardships transitioning foster youth face in gaining independence when they lack the stability and basic skills many of us take for granted. In particular, I am reminded of a young girl removed from an neglectful home, separated from her siblings and bounced among relatives and foster homes. She was moved from city to city, county to county and school to school.
By the time she reached 18, this young woman was pregnant and hadn’t developed the study habits required to attend college, could not balance a checkbook, pay her bills, or secure regular employment. The next ten years would be a series of lost jobs, addiction, custody battles and unstable housing. Now, at age 29, she is in school, holding a job and has one child back in her custody. Caring adults helped her learn the skills and provided the stability and guidance she needed to succeed.
Working with Transitional Aged Youth (TAY) has proven to me we have a deficit when it comes to preparing foster care youth for the adult world. From lobbying congress to community awareness at a grass roots level, we have an obligation to help young people overcome obstacles, such as supporting legislation like the 1999 Foster Care Independence Act, which amended Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to create the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. The Chafee Program opened the door for states to spend funds on a wide range of services and supports. While legislation is important, we can personally help these individuals become the contributing, cycle-busting and independent adults they can be.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Kings County invites you to join supportive community members who guide young adults and children to create their own path to success.
Working alongside foster parents, teachers, coaches and mentors, CASAs serve as permanent supportive connections for young people in our community. They help to encourage our youth in identifying options and making important decisions for themselves. Please consider becoming involved with a generation who needs you.
To get involved, visit www.casakingsco.org or call me personally at (559)587-9908 to learn more about how you can become a positive agent of change.
Mark Taylor, Executive Director
CASA of Kings County