The Vulnerabilities of Aging Out of Foster Care

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Children’s Bureau reported that, after a decade of steady declines in foster care caseloads, the number of children entering foster care began to rise in 2012. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of children in foster care rose by 10 percent.

In addition, youth who are aging out of the foster care system are at high risk of becoming homeless.

Our Youth and Family Services Programs in Northern New Jersey provide services to youth who have been in “out-of-home” placements including foster care, residential treatment facilities and detention centers.

We provide case management intervention services to our youth which support their educational and vocational goals, linkage to physical and behavioral health services, clinical evaluation and intervention, and support in the development of daily life skills to ease their transition to mature, independent adulthood.

Although each of our youth’s circumstances are unique, often times the common thread in their lives is multi-generational family disruption resulting in trauma — which often goes unnamed and undiagnosed. Unless the trauma is identified and treated, our youth are at high risk of developing co-morbid conditions including substance use disorders, domestic violence, trafficking, and behavioral health issues, particularly those experiencing traumatic stress linked with abuse and neglect. These factors are substantially greater for those youth having a history of living in foster care as reported by HHS.

Because of disruptions and upheavals in the lives of our youth, another challenge is when youth age out of foster care and retaining employment becomes even more critical. Often we see it’s not securing employment that is problematic, but retaining employment that is the issue.

Staff at our Youth & Family Service Programs work with youth and young adults, as well as several local community partners and businesses, to connect and place our youth in jobs that are flexible and allow each individual to be matched based on their skill-set as well as the fit with the employer.

The youth in our programs typically range in age from 14-21, which is a critical time in their development particularly when youth are transitioning from foster care to a group home, or to an Independent Living setting. Staff work diligently to assist our youth in addressing problematic behaviors and reducing risk factors while increasing safety and stability in their lives.

We know our youth are making progress in their lives when we see former residents in stable housing, with successful careers and families of their own.

Learn more about how we help at-risk youth.

By Thea Jandzio, Vice President, Business Development & Program Services

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