ach year, an estimated 20,000 youth “age out” of the foster care system and must make the difficult transition to self-sufficiency. Already burdened by their childhood experiences of abuse, neglect or abandonment, these young people leave the foster care system “without the knowledge, skills, experience, attitudes, habits, and relationships that will enable them to be productive and connected members of society.” They are not equipped to find gainful employment. Many have untreated physical and mental health needs, and no health insurance. Most have no housing options. And none have had the benefit of parental role models to transmit the expertise needed to negotiate the trials of living on one’s own.
Without family or any other dependable adults to rely on for assistance, these young people are, not surprisingly, at high risk of homelessness, joblessness, illness, incarceration, welfare dependency, early childbearing, and sexual and physical victimization.
According to studies of young people discharged to themselves in different states: 12-30 percent struggled with homelessness; 40-63 percent did not complete high school; 25-55 percent were unemployed; and only 38 percent of those employed were still working after one year; 30-62 percent had trouble accessing health care due to inadequate finances or lack of insurance; 32-40 percent were forced to rely on some form of public assistance and 50 percent experienced extreme financial hardship; 31-42 percent were arrested; 18-26 percent were incarcerated; and 40-60 percent of the young women were pregnant within 12-18 months of leaving foster care.*
We anticipate that between two and four of our residents will turn 18 and/or graduate from high school in each of the next three years. The current services available in our area for these young adults are inadequate. They are eager to continue their education, secure stable employment, and save for their future. Hope Village for Children wants to guarantee that they have that opportunity.
Our most recent project, the Therapeutic Transitional Living Program, involves two transitional homes for high school seniors and graduates living at Hope Village for Children. These homes will provide our residents with the opportunity to experience living in a less structured environment so that they may be adequately prepared for independent living upon leaving the foster care system. In order to acquire the necessary skills to become independent citizens, it is essential that they have the opportunity to make decisions concerning their future. It is equally important, however, that they be supervised and supported as they learn to navigate the “real” world.
Hope Village for Children has established the following goals for the Therapeutic Transitional Living Program:
- Participants will obtain and maintain employment.
- Participants will be given the opportunity to advance their education.
- Participants will have living and financial accommodations ensured prior to leaving the program.
- Participants will obtain the necessary skills to live independently.
The long-term impact of this program is immeasurable. They will not be forced to suffer the same fate as many young adults who leave the foster care system. This project is the last phase of years of investment in a child’s life. The long-term benefit for our community will be a drop in juvenile crime and teenage pregnancy, a lower high school dropout rate, a decline in welfare expenses, and the addition of productive citizens in our community. As families as businesses look to Meridian for possible relocation, this project serves as proof of our community’s commitment to children.
*Narrative courtesy of the Children’s Aid Society (www.childrensaidsociety.org). Please contact us for complete statistics and sources. All statistics have been verified.