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July 2, 2018

This Independence Day, it’s easy to focus on how the country celebrates this holiday – barbecue, fireworks, and the epitome of summertime. But to youth in the foster care system, the notion of “independence” has an entirely different meaning.

Across the country, babies, children, and teens enter foster care every day. Younger children, especially babies and toddlers, are much more likely to be placed in a foster home or be adopted than older children. For teens, especially, finding a permanent home – achieving “permanency” – is increasingly difficult as teens age. When the time comes for teens to no longer qualify for foster care, this phenomenon is referred to as “aging out”.

In the state of Missouri, a young adult can stay in foster care until age 21, still receiving resources and services that the system provides. In some states, however, teens age out at 18, or when they become a legal adult. More than 20,000 young adults involuntarily leave the foster care system without the stability of a family.

The statistics on youth aging out of foster care are dire. When youth age out without a family or support, they become instantly homeless. Only 1 in 2 youth ho age out will have some form of gainful employment by age 24, and there is less than a 3% chance that youth who have aged out will earn a college degree at any point in their life.

What can you do to support youth aging out of the system? The most important need is foster families and adoptive families who can provide a safe and loving home for teens in foster care. For families who aren’t able to take in a teen, mentoring a young adult or teen in foster care can make a meaningful impact. To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit goodshepherdstl.org/foster.