Life After Foster Care: What Happens After 18?ifcayouth
This is a three part series focusing on three critical aging moments for youth/alumni that have experienced the foster care system about what happens after aging out of the system and continuing on with their lives. A focus group was conducted to receive current feedback on local young adults that have aged out of foster care here in Washington, USA. The audience for this blog series is intended for foster youth and alumni to use as they move forward in life in hopes that it will guide them through confusing times when transitioning into adulthood. If you are not a youth or alumni please use this information in helping those that you may work with or know that could use this knowledge.
Janell Braxton, Editor, IFCA Editorial Team
Life After Foster Care: What Happens After Age 18?
Year after year there’s that one day that we all reflect on in celebration of our individuality, that one song that echoes in our brain ‘happy birthday to you’ except this birthday… This birthday is different-you’ve become an adult aging 18. In the eyes of the foster care system, this age is recognized as an adult, which meant no longer being a dependent of the state. So then, what happens next? Well, despite the experience of growing up in foster care or the lack in adequate support of preparations for adulthood, it is expected that you are to be financially secure, to have graduated on time, are able to easily access higher education, and lastly be able to maintain employment for your independence without anymore support by the child welfare system. Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone and you shouldn’t feel as if you are. Life after foster care at age 18 is the crucial time to get your affairs in order because not too long after will the services and supports begin to dissipate completely. Causes of undesirable outcomes for youth aging out regarding their employment, education, housing, and healthcare may be due to limited resources and support after exiting care.
For some context, back in 2009 Washington state created the Extended Foster Care program, as a pilot to lengthen the eligibility of foster youth to stay in foster care for additional services, as long as, the youth meets one of the requirements to qualify. Since then, the Extended Foster Care program has created an all inclusive eligibility list for any youth exiting the system the opportunity to sign themselves back in for continued support til the age of 21.
If this program is offered, then what issues could these foster youth face in adulthood afterwards? Let’s begin by examining a timeline of things to have accomplished by the age of 21: at age 18 a youth should have graduated high school, acquire a job, and enrolling in postsecondary education; at age 19 working towards an AA degree while maintaining a job or two; at age 20 preparing for a transfer to a four year university and looking at living on campus; at age 21 legally considered an adult, working towards a Bachelor’s degree, and closer to independence after graduation. Along this timeline, many life scenarios occur preventing a foster youth from continuing on this path and more towards the stigmas and stereotypes known today as non-graduate, homeless, early pregnancy, and facing the justice system behind bars. The problem is not the lack of support services in a foster youth’s life between the ages of 18-21 but the lack of the hand holding and adequate preparations for their adolescent/adulthood years to come.
Take advantage of the Extended Foster Care program offered here in WA, concentrate on getting a degree (there are many scholarships especially for foster youth before turning age 21), and last but not least, be proud of where you are now because your future is yet to begin. Below are links and further information on services provided to youth aging out at 18.
Extended Foster Care Program:
RCW (Bill of WA State):
Data on youth aging out:
ETV (Education and Training Voucher) Program:
This post is also available in: Japanese