How To Support Foster Youth

Written by Kendall Monroe & Ashley Fields

Written by Kendall Monroe & Ashley Fields

If every child aging out of foster care THIS year had a home, we’d have a societal saving of $6.5 billion in the United States! For every youth that ages out of foster care and enters a world of homelessness, poverty, unemployment or the criminal justice system, the community loses an engaged and contributing member to society. Instead, society gains a lonely adult often in need of continued, expensive public support. Studies show there’s an estimated savings of $235,000 in total public benefits, including child welfare and human services costs, per child for every child that is adopted before aging out of foster care.

If adopted before emancipated, children are:

  •  21% less likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and about half as likely to be delinquent or arrested
  • 32% less likely to be incarcerated
  • 34% less likely to have poor interpersonal relationship skills and are 60% less likely to be socially disconnected as young adults
  • 22% more likely to be in the labor force as young adults

However, only 9% of the adoptions will be of children ages 11-17, although the age group makes up one third of those who are waiting. The majority of these older youth will spend an average of 55 months in foster care and have lived in more than 6 homes prior to being released from care on their 18th birthday.

These children fare much worse than their same age peers. These are just a few statistics describing the outcomes of growing up in foster care:

  • 25% of emancipated foster youth are incarcerated by age 20
  • 68% of emancipated foster youth will receive public welfare benefits within the first four years of aging-out of care
  • Only 45% of foster youth completed high school
  • By age 19, nearly half of young women who have aged out of foster care have become pregnant. And by age 20, nearly half of that group has experienced a second pregnancy.

This is why we, Ashley Fields and Kendall Monroe, developed and founded The Way Home Adoption, an agency that partners with our local foster care system to find permanent homes for teenagers who have been lingering in long-term foster care, those for whom traditional adoption efforts have failed. Prior to developing The Way Home, in both of our careers, we saw over and over again how teenagers in foster care fared worse than their peers. They are moved more often, adopted less, and on their 18th birthday face a life on the streets. It was always clear there was a problem. We decided it was our responsibility to find a solution.

We studied the best way to do older youth adoption, and then formed our organization, The Way Home Adoption, based on those findings. We have volunteers work one-on-one with youth on our cases to help us recruit permanent homes in our communities. We do child-focused adoption recruitment, which means we find the right home to fit the child, rather then the right child to fit the home. All our potential adoptive families also volunteer with our youth first before committing to adoption and before adoption is even discussed. Our model has proven to work best in this population for both the youth and the potential forever family.

Before we were involved in this work, we knew older youth adoption would be hard. We know that most families tend to lean towards wanting to expand their homes with young children. What has surprised us is that these youth, albeit older, are just as loving, warm, and resilient as younger kids. They still yearn to be hugged, appreciated, and loved. Finding them homes may be more difficult, but loving them is no harder.

Many people choose to adopt because they’re looking to expand their family. For our older youth, we think you should consider adoption because you have the resources, room, and love to give. Many families don’t think they “need” any more children. We tell people that you may not need another child, but a child needs you. Adopting a teen in foster care is a way to give back to the community by giving a child the one thing that can make the most positive impact on their future: the gift of a family. 

Our advice for those interested in foster care is to get involved. If you’re in Houston, look up our program! If you’re in other communities, contact your local CPS and ask to become a mentor for a youth. Advocate in your cities, churches, neighborhoods and schools for youth adoption. Remind people that it’s ‘never too late for forever.’

If you’re interested in becoming a potential home for a child in foster care, our advice is to consider a teen. Youth in foster care may move into your home and call you mom and dad, or they may always call you by your first name. They may keep in touch with members of their family from their past, or they may have no relatives at all. They may be behind in school, or be extremely advanced. They may get in trouble, or may follow all your rules. Your journey with a youth versus a young child will be different. But we can promise it will be worth it.

Founders: Ashley Fields and Kendall Monroe

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