Background on foster care youth
The vast majority of children and youth who enter foster care come into care through no fault of their own after having been abused or neglected. Older youth in care have often already lived through a lifetime of such treatment – trauma that is then compounded by their removal from home and the disruption of their families. Although the goal of foster care is almost always reunifying the family, too many parents just can’t get their lives together enough to have their children returned to them. At that point the goal for the child changes and a permanent place for that child is sought, usually through adoption or guardianship.
For too many youth, however, no permanent home can be found. It is these youth who are left to “age out” of foster care. Outcomes for these youth are all too often quite grim.
In Ottawa County during Fiscal Year 2012 (10-1-11 to 9-30-12) there were 241 children and youth in foster care. Of these, 43 were teens age 14 to 18; and 18 youth were aged 19-21.
As of June 30, 2012, the State of Michigan had 13,882 children of all ages in foster care. 25% (3,517) of these were youth age 12-18.
Long-term outcomes for youth who age out of foster care are grim. Consider the following statistics from a study of Midwestern youth who aged out of care (in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois):
By age 24
Only 6% had achieved a 2 or 4 year college degree
Almost 25% had no GED or high school diploma
37% had been homeless or “couch surfed” since leaving care
42% of young men and 20% of young women had been arrested
¾ of the women and 1/3 of the young men had received government benefits to meet their basic needs within the last year
About 75% of the young women had ever been pregnant (compared to 40% of all same-aged women) – 2/3 of these pregnancies were unplanned
2/3 of the young women and almost half the young men had at least one child.
61% of the young men had ever impregnated a partner
Only 48% were working (compared with 72% of their peers who had not been in foster care)
Nearly 60% of the young men had been convicted of a crime (compared with 10% of their non-foster care peers)