To help address the unique challenges faced by older foster youth, the National CASA Association has launched a program titled Fostering Futures.
Each year, an estimated 25,000 young people between the ages of 16 to 21 are legally required to emancipate – or age out – from the foster care system. Aging out of foster care without a life plan or preparation puts these vulnerable youths at great risk. These risks include homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, criminal involvement and mental health issues.
Youth older than age 13 are far less likely to be adopted and more likely to age out of the foster care system with little or no adult support. Fostering Futures will engage CASA volunteers as advocates for and advisors to foster youth ages 13 – 21, with the goal of helping them develop specific transition plans, identify supportive adult connections, and achieve positive outcomes once they transition out of foster care.
National CASA worked hard to help secure important federal legislation which includes the option for states to receive federal support if they elect to extend foster care to age 21. By extending the length of possible stays in care, the Act gives these young people more time to plan for their futures and to access specific resources to help them achieve their goals.
CASA of the Pikes Peak Region hopes to implement the Fostering Futures program locally by 2013, and we are looking at other ways to enhance the support CASA volunteers already provide to older kids in the foster care system.