Here in Boston, there have been recent efforts to improve our foster care system with what we have been given. Mayor Walsh has begun improving communications with foster parents, and has begun making promises to continue to better the system here as a whole. However, there are still some serious issues with what happens in the foster care system — and more so what happens to transition-age youth. Too many young adults who are leaving or have left the foster care system are not given the support that they should be, and too often experience homelessness or become unable to sustain themselves.
At the age of 18, now-adults in foster care are emancipated from the system, also known as “aging out.” As legal adults, in many cases, they are presented with all of the responsibilities that other people their age would be able to share with their parents or guardians. However, with the majority of them being removed from their parents because of neglect, abuse, or other inabilities to cope with the responsibility of taking care of a child, many of them do not have any safety net that everyone needs at such a vulnerable age.
As a result, in the following 2 years, more than a quarter of these youth will experience homelessness. Yet the solution needs to be more than just keeping in touch - because even though they have experienced homelessness, 90% have been connected with an adult in those 2 years. This indicates that a further step needs to be taken in order to give financial and educational support to these individuals before and after their release from the foster care system.
The way I see it, an “easy” solution to this issue of homelessness or lack of a safety-net would be to dedicate more funding to providing the necessary resources and connections to give them a home and that extra layer of fiscal and emotional security. The ‘money side’ of it all could be covered through homes dedicated to the emancipated youth or financial aid to set them up on their own. Although, either way, I think a critical step in making this happen would be to create some sort of curriculum for them to follow in order to prepare them for this all-too-sudden individual lifestyle.
After reviewing the budget of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) I understand that there is clearly a lot of money and resources dedicated to not only supporting youth in the foster care system but also their families. That’s why a source of education on how to make connections, become employed, and set yourself up for a functioning life is essential — because while all of this money is being poured into social workers, grants, funds, and other functions to help get these now-adults live on their own or go seek higher education a quarter of them are still ending up homeless within the next 2 years.
Now, it’s easy to say that all of these systems are in place to prevent that from happening, and while it’s true, it doesn’t make sense to continue doing what we’ve been doing for years. There aren’t many people who ever have to manage their entire life on their own — and nobody should ever have to. So as a unit, DCF needs to make sure that they help build connections and strong relationships for these kids and improve their communication with the emancipated youth in order to ensure their sustained safety. That is why soon I am hoping to see some well-needed improvements in our foster care system — starting here in Massachusetts — that will make sure that none of these kids become homeless, and especially not 25% of them.
Boston Latin School