Tag Archives: life after foster care
The John H. Chafee Foster care independence program, also called the independent living programs assists foster kids that age out of the foster care system. It is named after a senator from Rhode Island that sponsored the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 that brought about the independent living program. This piece of legislation regarding the independent living program had 7 main goals according to the law itself:
- To identify children who are likely to stay in the foster care system until they reach 18 and to help these foster kids make the transition to being self-sufficient. It includes services like assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, career exploration, vocational training, job placement/retention, education and training in daily living skills, learning about budgeting and other financial management skills, substance abuse prevention, and preventive health (including smoking avoidance, nutrition education, and pregnancy prevention).
- To help these foster kids receive the education and training to obtain employment.
- To help these foster kids get ready for education after high school.
- To provide personal and emotional support to foster kids aging out. This includes helping provide mentors to help guide foster kids into life on their own.
- To provide assistance financially, with finding housing, counseling, employment, education, and other support. This is to assist the foster child aging out with their own efforts in becoming self-sufficient. In this, participants of the independent living program must learn to take responsibility for themselves and their responsibilities.
- To make available vouchers for education and training.
- To provide the services referred to in this subsection to children who, after attaining 16 years of age, have left foster care for kinship guardianship or adoption.
While taking the independent living program I learned things that immediately helped me when I moved out. Not only did I learn the necessities of how to be a responsible adult, interview skills to get a job and ways to better myself, I learned things that would save me money when I didn’t have any. For example one class was about how to take car out your car, changing the oil, checking the fluids and general car maintenance. I learned real life skills that prepared me for some of the curve balls of aging out of foster care . During many several of our independent living program classes, people who were working in or had great knowledge of that class day’s topic would attend. They would share their insights on the topic and give you their “expert” opinion. Not only were we gaining knowledge, but now I had a network connection if I ever needed one in the field if I ever ran into something as I moved out on my own. These classes weren’t just boring lecture classes either, these were hands on. From working on a car to taping an interview and going back over it with suggestions for improvements, these classes truly helped. After completing the class I received a certificate of completion.
The independent living program didn’t just offer me classes to learn adult responsibilities. It also helped me financially both with housing and education. Each month I would get a check from the state (around $350) that I used to pay my rent. I was given financial help with college tuition and also received assistance to help pay for books and supplies. I got a lot of assistance that was much-needed, all for sitting through weekly classes for a few months. Unfortunately some foster kids don’t know this program is available to them or worse yet they don’t want to put in the time of taking the classes. As a foster kid you need to make use of all the resources you can. The independent living program can what gives a foster kid a leg up, become self-sufficient and get to a point where they don’t have to depend on the governments help.
If you know someone that’s in or was in foster care make sure they know about this program. There are many programs out there put in place to help you if you’re a foster kid aging out. For more information about the independent living program for foster kids that are aging out visit The Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Not every kid stays in foster care the same amount of time. The average time children stay in foster care is a little under 2 years, though many do stay longer. While some kids are reunified with their parents, move with family or get adopted, others may end up “lifers” of the foster care system or may already be close to adulthood. These are the kids that ” age out ” of the foster care system. I aged out of foster care and it can be pretty tough going out into the world on your own. The only family I had besides my brothers were states away and many kids don’t have any family to turn to. Many foster kids that age out have no support system, no mentors or guidance. Many stumble and find themselves in tough situations that they often are not ready for. Roughly 20,000 to 25,000 foster kids age out of foster care each year. Many end up having trouble financially, legally, emotionally and with education.
I moved out with some friends the summer I graduated. I didn’t want to live in the dorms at college as I already had extreme anxiety about even going to college in the first place. I received some financial help since I was a foster kid and got a pretty good ACT score so I received most of my first year of college for free. I did still have to pay upfront for books(many which I couldn’t afford), other school related expenses and my living costs. I was having extreme issues with anxiety and found it hard to interact with others. Working full-time, mixed with anxiety, and being an eighteen year old with no one to tell me what to do, I was on academic probation my first year. I was good at the work I did, but I didn’t do well with open discussions, group projects and speeches. Soon I was failing at school and felt like it wasn’t for me. I aged out of foster care and was stuck in a crummy house, making minimum wage. I was just getting by and felt stuck. I was living day by day until I was given the opportunity at a sales position by a family friend. I’m a hard worker and found I was pretty good at the job. I was able to pull myself up and get things going for myself. I got that opportunity, that chance that many foster kids that age out don’t get. Yeah I worked hard to be where I am today, but there was lot of luck involved as well.
Aging out isn’t hard just because of the major things in life. It’s the “little” things that can get you too. Like the time I woke up when winter morning and it was 45 degrees in the house because I was out of propane. I didn’t know about propane. I had no idea how much it could cost to fill up a tank for the winter. Where was I supposed to just come up with $450 to get some heat in my house? Many times I wished there was some one to just tell me what to do or what to expect. I can’t tell you have many times I asked myself, “Am I doing things right?”. Not because I was doing anything wrong I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do in life. My story of how I aged out of foster care isn’t even a struggle compared to what other kids go through. Too many kids are sent out in to this world with not enough knowledge to be successful. Even though I had the advantage for coming from Coyote Hill, where they taught me a lot about what I need to do to be on my own, I still ran into situations. Of those foster kids that age out each year, only around 54% have a high school diploma or GED and only around 2% obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Around 51% were unemployed at 24 and a quarter had a record within 2 years of leaving the system. With statistics like these how do we expect these kids to succeed?