Bridging the Gap Between Opportunities and Our Youth in Foster Care
Foster youth make up the only group to be involuntarily separated from their families through government intervention. They are also among those most at risk of dropping out of high school is the youth aging out of foster care. This is why they are among the targets of the U.S. Department of Labor - Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA).
Imagine the struggle they have to go through—not counting the hurdles they have already faced as children without a family or a home they could call their own.
At Sisters Outreach Each 1 Teach 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, we help make a difference by bringing awareness to the plight of our youth aging out of foster care. We inform the public, provide assistance through training and counseling, and gather support through monetary and in-kind donations.
The Cost of Doing Nothing Affects Us All
…[Imagine] what it’s like to be a teenager in foster care. As these young people approach legal adulthood, they face tremendous obstacles, including the unrealistic expectations that they will be able to succeed on their own when they turn 18.
In fact, over the past decade, more than 200,000 teenagers have aged out of foster care at 18—often without achieving those permanent family connections or those critical building blocks of support. Consequently, too many of them face challenges immediately upon leaving foster care—challenges that don’t just affect this cohort of young people, but that affect us all.
A study issued in May 2013 by Jim Cassey Youth Opportunities Initiative—and illustrated in a new infographic—shows that, on average, for every young person who ages out of foster care, taxpayers and communities pay $300,000 in social costs like public assistance, incarceration, and lost wages to a community over that person’s lifetime. Do the math and you can conservatively estimate that this problem incurs almost $8 billion in social costs to the United States every year.
It’s time to do something. The case for investing in our youth aging out of foster care is a powerful one. Major savings are not only possible, but they are achievable in the relatively near term. The most costly outcomes—and the ones that hurt young people the most—come as a result of events, decisions, and behaviors that occur within a few years or even within days of leaving foster care, like becoming homeless or dropping out of school. For many of these youth, the challenges that start in their teen years and early 20s, such as academic failure or unplanned pregnancies, continue throughout the rest of their lives.
So what can we do? Like many social problems, the answer lies in prevention. It is important to recognize that the long-term cost of the status quo is enormous, not just on the public coffers but on the lives of young people who deserve better opportunities to succeed in life as productive members of our society. While they face seemingly insurmountable odds, they deserve our support and a serious investment in their futures. Indeed, the most costly solution available is to do nothing, or to do too little,