Aging Out Youth, Forgotten Fridays, Foster ParentingJan. 5, 2018

Forgotten Friday | 5 Things that Happen to Kids Who Age Out of Foster Care

Behind each stat is a young person whose life was disrupted by abuse and neglect.The statistic is alarming. Approximately twenty-thousand older children age out of the US foster care system per year. This means that 20,000 young adults ages 18-21 enter into the world without the stability that families bring. While the statistic is hard to hear, the truth about what can happen to these young adults is even more difficult.

Here are some facts of what happens to kids who age out of foster care

1) Twenty percent of youth who were in foster care will become instantly homeless upon aging out.
Yes. You read that right . . . instantly homeless. Older youth who have simply survived in the system but did not thrive in it, age out with nowhere to call home and most of the time, they are lacking the personal skills and knowledge they need to access resources that can help them.

2) There is less than a 3% chance of a child who ages out of foster care achieving higher education.
It is not that they are incapable of further education, are not intelligent, or do not desire to earn a college degree. Many lack the skills needed to enroll in college or apply for tuition grants or education loans.

3) Only one out of every two older youth will have employment by the age of twenty-four.
With the lack of education and appropriate independent living skills, the risk of unemployment is very high. Because of this, older youth who are on the streets are at high risk for abusing substances, becoming victims of crimes, engaging in criminal behavior, and falling prey to human traffickers. With the lack of stability and resources, these youths become easy targets for victimization.

4) Twenty-five percent of older youth who age out of foster care are affected by PTSD.
In essence, child abuse and neglect just does not go away once a child enters the system and is out of harm’s way. The impact of abuse and neglect is lifelong and can be very detrimental to overall functioning. Growing up in the foster care system in itself can be traumatic–not knowing if one is going to be reunified with biological family or adopted, not knowing if one has to move or not, bouncing around from home to home, changing caseworkers every year or so, etc. All of this is hard to overcome.

5) Seven out of ten girls who age out will become pregnant before the age of twenty-one.
This statistic is very concerning given the entirety of all of the risk factors mentioned above. There is an additional risk to the babies born to these mothers. They potentially could become victims of abuse and neglect and experience homelessness and instability, thus, continuing the cycle.

If reading these statistics does not cause a reaction within you, then perhaps you need to read them again.

Behind each stat is a young person whose life was disrupted by abuse and neglect and who spent their childhood in the system by no fault of their own.

There are things that we can all do to improve their chances of success, though.

  • Consider becoming a mentor or volunteer with a program that works directly with foster youth.
  • If you have thought about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, consider taking in older kids. There is a great need for foster homes for teenagers, and through fostering, you can have a direct impact of preparing youth for adulthood.
  • Get involved with advocacy groups that affect change in policy and procedures.
  • Educate others about what is going on with kids who age out of the system.

Every youth who ages out of care deserves the opportunity to explore their talents and interests and to achieve their goals (because they all have them). They have the right to live their lives free of abuse and victimization. They need to know that they are not “throw-away” kids. Surely, we can do better.

(Statistics taken from the National Foster Youth Institute.)

[This article appeared on]

Caroline Bailey

Caroline is a mother to three children through adoption, and a strong advocate for foster care. At the age of eleven, Caroline underwent an emergency hysterectomy in order to save her life. Since then, she has known that she would never have biological children.

In 2006, Caroline and her husband, Bruce, became foster parents and quickly accepted the placement of a newborn baby boy. Through their journey of foster care, they learned so much about the needs of children, and were greatly humbled by the experience. They went on to adopt their daughter after fostering her, and recently adopted their youngest boy in 2013.

Currently, Caroline works for a Christian child welfare agency in Missouri. Caroline shares her life experience about foster care, adoption, barrenness, and faith on her blog, Barren to Blessed.

Comments (5) Leave a Comment

  • Matt Furlong says:
    January 5, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    I am an advocate. Adopted 4 kids that were told they will not make it in a family. Five years later, they are thriving. Telling a kid they wont make it in a family is abusive. We overcame all the adversities the system put in front of us. Now I am trying to develop a program to help parents, foster parents, and our children.

  • Children are 80% of time taken from parents that did not abuse or neglect their children, they were victims of a malicious phone call or their life style did not agree with Child protective services. So then these kids are taken, and passed from home to home, never forming bonds. Being treated like less than human, and more often than not abused physically sexually and mentally in the homes they are passed around to. These kids had healthy happy homes, but were ripped out of them in the middle of the night , by strangers,, at their door, escorted by police. How is this not abusive, and traumatizing to a child. We need to stop taking kids from family, and start working with the families with the kids left in the home, or with a relative. This way they will have those ties and family bonds, so they will not be homeless at 18. Will not be out in the cold or in prison, or raising a baby on their on. The child protective service system needs to be taken down, and let the police handle calls of abuse on children. The kids can go to family or family friends, where they will be loved and cared for.

    • Hey Suzan, Thanks for your thoughts. It sounds like you’ve had some negative experiences with the foster care system and we know that can happen. It is our hope that God’s people will come alongside this often broken system and the people who are affected by it to show them that no matter what the circumstance, they are loved and of great value. Fortunately, we have seen many positive examples of kids coming into very loving foster homes and also being successfully united back home as well. God is moving–even when things seem hopeless from our perspective. This brings us hope and we pray that it does for you too.

      • Foster Child 134 says:
        January 23, 2018 at 6:23 pm

        Foster Care saved my life. People should stop complaining about “the system” and seek to fix it. Thank you for the work DCF does. Because of DCF I went to collage and got out of a bad home life. I am now married, getting ready to have children, purchase my first home, and finish my masters degree in Social Work!!!!!

  • This is a sad but true reality for foster children who are become adults while in foster care. We got our foster son right after his 17th birthday. He was my son’s close friend and came home when his family split due to incarceration of his mother and a father who is mentally challenged. We have never gotten any kind of aid for him and he was allowed just to age out of the system. It is tough but I am happy to say that he is thriving in my household and will celebrate his 20th birthday and is well on his way to becoming an independent, responsible young man. We love him and would never dream of asking him to ever leave. I know all foster parents do not have the hearts that we do. I have heard many stories of them turning 18 and the money ends they are kicked out of their foster homes to fend for themselves. I don’t know how anyone could do this. He means so much to us and we can’t imagine life without him in our family. His mother has just been sentenced to another 3 years but he is handling it well and trying to focus on taking care of himself and figuring out what direction he needs to go in. Because of my son’s heart for his friend we now have been blessed with another son, brother, and best of member of our family. I encourage people to reach out to these children from your heart and one by one we might can reduce the statistics listed above. This is a serious issue in our country and needs attention.. You will never know the blessings you will receive mentoring a young person into adulthood.

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