Addressing the challenges faced by older youth in foster care
Here at CASA, we have first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges faced by older youth in foster care. Each year in our community, dozens of young people turn 18 and emancipate from the foster care system. Aging out of foster care without a life plan or preparation puts these vulnerable youth at great risk. These risks include homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, criminal involvement, and mental health issues. About one in five teens become homeless within a year after leaving foster care, and one in four emancipated foster youth will be incarcerated within the first two years after they leave the system.
CASA programs address the unique challenges faced by older foster youth and to prevent these trends. The Fostering Futures program engages CASA volunteers as advocates for, and advisors to, foster youth ages 14-21, with the goal of helping them identify supportive adult connections and develop specific plans for making a successful transition from foster care to becoming independent, successful adults. Case Supervisor Janet Stoddard leads the Fostering Futures training and does a tremendous job empowering volunteers to support our teens. “This class provides advocates with the tools necessary to not only help identify interdependent living skills and resources, but it also equips advocates to take on a mentoring role with their youth,” says Janet. “In turn, these young adults become engaged in their future and self-advocacy, and this makes a tremendous difference in their future success.”
In addition, The Hanger fulfills the need for clothing and personal items for foster teens, and now we also provide life skills workshops and other opportunities for personal and professional growth. The Life Long Links team is doing a phenomenal job at finding and connecting foster kids to extended family members and other important people to ensure long-term connections for the future.
The good work of our volunteers is helping teens transition from foster care to become independent, self-sufficient and productive adults in the community. We thank all of you who have stepped up to support older foster youth and proactively prevent homelessness.
Online resources to help emancipating foster youth:
The Colorado Springs Independent Living Guide was developed by Leadership Pikes Peak (LPP) for youth aging out of the foster care system.
The U.S. Department of Education – Foster Care Transition Toolkit
Annie E. Casey Foundation – Preparing for the Road Ahead: Helping Young People Transition from Foster Care to Adulthood