Many who think about becoming foster parents imagine that they will be fostering an infant or a young child. Often the message is that teens are going to age out of the system at 18 years of age and they don’t need the support of a loving family. This is a huge myth.
Take a moment and think back to age 14, 16 and 18. Were you ready to take on the world of college, work, financial aid, budgeting, finding an apartment, and making relationship decisions ALL ON YOUR OWN? Who did you turn to for support? If you answered parents, siblings, grandparents or mentors, then you understand the need for loving homes for teens. Fostering a teen is as important to an older child as it is to a young one, and prepares a teen for adulthood through mentorship, household lessons and experiencing a family’s stability. Fostering a teen allows you to share what YOU know, a benefit that can last a teen for a lifetime.
Research by the Pew Foundation shows that today, more than half of US youth between 18 and 24 years continue to live with their parents and rely on them for both material and emotional support.
Yet, we expect the most vulnerable of young adults who are in foster care to survive alone in the adult world. They need parents and families to succeed and thrive.
You can often see the results to the care and stability you invest in a teen in real time. Through your care, you will see older children learn skills and gain experiences they may have never known before: learning to ride a bike, cook, drive, study, and make plans for a job or college, each a building block for their future. You may teach them how to do their laundry and immediately they are able to use that skill to their benefit. Your unconditional commitment to a teen both supports them and our community, as they become emerging young adults, ready to contribute to their own wellbeing and that of our community.
Teens in foster care are extremely vulnerable. Statistics show that 50% of youth aging out of foster care will become homeless and a large percent will end up incarcerated. We also know that foster teens are a leading target of human and sex trafficking. Only a tiny percent will actually have received a college degree by the age of 26.
As one of the most vulnerable populations in Ventura County, we need unconditionally committed families who will walk alongside these youth, for the sake of love and community care.
When foster youth turn 16, they begin working with their social worker and other mentors to establish realistic and achievable goals as part of their Transitional Independent Living Plan, or TILP. At this age, foster youth also participate in the Independent Living Program (ILP), which helps them build skills needed to live independently and further refine their life goals. Social workers discuss goals for college, employment, housing, and other critical areas with 16 and 17-year old foster teens, and help them make an informed decision about whether they will exit foster care at age 18, or enter Extended Foster Care (more info in the next section).
Transitional Aged Youth (TAY) who choose to participate in Extended Foster Care may seek to live with a foster family. This continued family relationship is highly valuable and provides youth the added time and support that they need as they continue to mature and seek stability. Extended Foster Care also takes seriously the need by all young adults to have family networks committed to their wellbeing and success.
Emerging adults can transition into one of two placement arrangements depending on the level of independent living skills demonstrated. They can also opt out completely.
Emerging adults who reach agreements with their current foster families to continue living with them (or a new foster family placement), but who need more time to develop their independent living skills, will enter into a Foster Family – Extended Foster Care placement arrangement. Under this arrangement, the foster parents will continue to receive the approved basic rate (plus any other allowable special reimbursements).
Emerging adults who have adequate independent living skills, will enter into a “supervised independent living – extended foster care” arrangement. Under this arrangement, the emerging adult themselves can receive the approved basic rate (plus any other allowable special reimbursements). Click here to learn more about the Independent Living Program.