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On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System Paperback – August 8, 2006
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Foster care is designed to provide for children up until the age of 18, but what happens after that? Shirk and Stangler note in the introduction to their study that in today's society, young people don't tend to reach full maturity until their mid-twenties, and most children leaving foster care aren't even equipped with the basic tools (a high-school diploma, a driver's license or state ID, work experience) the average 18-year-old possesses. Shirk and Stangler examined several individual cases in various states to see how well the children faired. One chapter examines three brothers whose fates diverged: one is currently in jail for armed robbery, another died in a car crash, and the third is happily married with a new business. One young woman makes it through a series of foster homes and high schools to earn a hard-won college degree and a position as a teacher, while one young man yearns for a family but keeps running afoul of the law. Jimmy Carter provides the forward for this important and often heart-wrenching book. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"On Their Own is a must-read account... for all Americans who care about children." President Jimmy Carter"
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On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System zeroes in on these issues in great detail, sharing facts, figures, and anecdotal stories of featured young people. How they came into the system, the experiences they had, and what happened to them during the transition out of care.
These stories were not new to me, having worked for many years in the system as a social worker; I could definitely connect with what happened to these young people, as I'd seen many of these events firsthand.
Throughout this chronicle, the authors talked about different programs that successfully helped young people transition, and also shared legislation that offers a hopeful future for children in this situation.
Most of us know from experience that children are not ready to be independent and fully functioning at eighteen, nineteen, or possibly even twenty-one. And when you factor in the scenarios experienced by children in care who are "protected" by law and not offered opportunities to experience independence, you compound the problem.
Budgetary constraints are often the obstacles that prevent more help for these children. Community support can turn these issues around when private agencies partner with governmental agencies.
The authors bring out some recent changes:
"The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is a national effort to help young people make successful transitions from foster care to adulthood. Formed by two of the nation's leading foundations focused exclusively on child and youth well-being, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs, the Initiative strives to bring together the people and resources to help young people make the connections they need to education, employment, health care, housing, and permanent, family-like relationships."
A probing, detailed illustrated journey that takes the reader right to the heart of the problem, I recommend this book to anyone who cares about the youth of our nation; especially those most vulnerable because of their life experiences. Five stars.
Kids in foster care often lack basic skills. When you go from one foster home to another, you never stay long enough to learn. If each foster home is in a different neighborhood, you end up switching schools constantly. You'll be uprooted every few months, never learning anything in school or at home.
If you choose to take in foster children, you have to accept that they can be angry and hostile and moody. They may hate you with a vengeance and not want to take orders from you. But your primary goal should be to teach them how to live. You need to take them to the supermarket and teach them how to buy pasta, bread, and meat. You need to show them how to cook, clean the pots, and buy food within a budget. You must teach them how to launder their clothes, and since not all buildings have washing machines, you teach them to use the laundromat.
I taught scores of boys and girls who were raised by foster parents or by relatives. They couldn't take care of themselves, and life was impossible for them once they turned 18 and were out on their own. Some would go to college and flunk out, because with nobody there to tell them when to get up, they were unable to stick to a schedule.
I'm not going to get into all the things that Judge Judy wrote in her book, but the prognosis isn't good. The foster care system has been in trouble for decades and it doesn't look any better. Unless something is done, the future looks rather bleak.