There is a tremendous need for services targeting our young adults who are transitioning out of public institutions, particularly out of the foster care system.
Across the nation, foster youth emancipate from the foster care system at the age 18. When they emancipate their futures are uncertain because there are very few housing and support options to assist them with their transition to adulthood. California alone has the highest number of youth in foster care with numbers reaching as high as 83,000 children in care. Of the 83,000 in foster care, 4,000 emancipate from the foster care system when they turn 18 years old. On average, emancipated foster youth have been in the system for five years and may have had six housing placements while in care.
The housing door is slammed shut. Within 18 months of emancipation, 40 – 50% of former foster youth become homeless. More alarming, at exit, 65% need immediate housing. The scarcity of housing resources means that most will end up living on the streets.
The lack of employment results in poverty. Within 5 years, 50% of emancipated foster youth experience high rates of unemployment. More than 60% of emancipated foster youth earn incomes at or below $6,000 a year. This number is below the federal poverty level of $7,980 for single individuals causing many to rely on public benefits and public services to survive.
The scarcity of resources leads to the incarceration. Within the first 2 years of emancipation, 25% of former foster youth will be incarcerated. As emancipated youth seek to get their basic need met, they engage in criminal activities to support themselves. Not good for our already overpopulated prison and jail systems.
Healthcare is an extreme necessity. 33% of emancipated foster youth have no insurance. Nearly 50% suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma, visual and auditory impairments, malnutrition, and dental decay. More than 50% have moderate or severe mental illness. Worse, emancipated foster youth experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at a rate 2 times the level of veterans of the war. Their lives are already scared by catastrophic circumstances.
Education is out of reach. Most emancipated youth have a desire for educational advancement. 70% want to go to college. Yet, only 10% attend and less than 1% graduate from college. As for high school graduation, only 40% complete high school.
Source: ( 2007) Our Children: Emancipating Foster Youth
Cities, Counties, and School Partnership