My son was talking to a young child who is a veteran of foster care. My son mentioned that he turns 18 soon. The foster child says with great sympathy in his voice “oh you can’t live at your home any more, huh?”
I explained that my son won’t be going off to college soon, so he’ll be staying with us for a while longer.
The foster child just stared back at me with a blank look.
Then it hit me.
For this child, turning 18 means being kicked out of your home, because you no longer qualify for foster care. In this child’s mind, growing up means “aging out.”
Pretty sad that he didn’t even know there was another way of living, where kids voluntarily choose to move out and parents make them promise to visit frequently. Where turning 18 doesn’t mean losing your family and home.
What is it like at age nine to be removed from your home and placed in foster care? What is it like to be told someone wants to adopt you, only to have that person change her mind? Michelle talks about her real life experiences as a child in foster care, including being raised cross-culturally and what having a CASA (court appointed special advocate) meant to her.
Teenagers in foster care have a say in whether adoption will be their goal. Some teens choose to “age out,” aka stay in foster care until they turn 18 and then live on their own. Why would a young person stop searching for a permanent family?
Some answers from actual “aged out” young adults:
- I was scared
- My older brother didn’t want me to leave him behind in foster care
- It was too permanent
- I thought that since I had been with the same foster family for a while that I didn’t need a permanent family
What did these young people discover as they got older? That family matters at any age. To have people who love you, who support you, and who can be relied upon – no one ever outgrows that need.
Check out this video “Youth Voices: Life After Foster Care” from the Dave Thomas Foundation that aims to educate teens in foster care about why they should take a risk and say yes to seeking an adoptive family.