The advice I give the youth in foster care
I work for a non-profit agency that is licensed through DCS to care for youth who are aging out of the foster care system. The youth at my site are ages 16–21, and yes, kids can stay in the system after the age of 18 if they sign a voluntary contract. We would love to work with these kids forever, there are a few things we try to teach them before they turn 21 and age out of the foster care system.
If they’re in the foster care system, they have trauma. Trauma can make it harder than usual for young adults or kids to get jobs, build healthy relationships, save money, and experience regulation functioning. That is why the advice I would give to kids in the foster care system might be different than kids who, as I said, grew up “normal” or not in the system.
As a case manager, it is my duty to help the kids be as prepared as possible to enter the real world. Here is some of the (realistic) advice I give them.
Advice #1: Work and save as much money as you can now.
This seems like it would be obvious, but for kids in the system it may not be. Kids will come into our program and be here for months or years and refuse to work.
Why? That is because they have been in the system their entire lives and have always been provided with everything they need. Which is great, until the kids feel like they will always be taken care of and then face a very harsh reality when they age out and there is no one to take care of them.
Maybe that sounds too harsh, I don’t know, but I do know how many kids I have seen age out with very little money to their name and no places to go. So for that, I will always encourage the kids to work hard and save money while they can.
Advice#2: Get a car.
This is a follow-up for point one. Rarely do kids age out and go to live in an apartment. They usually end up living with a distant family member for a few months before they get kicked out again, or they end homeless. I always advice my kids to save for a car because in the terrible case that they end up homeless, they could at least have a car.