Because Every Child and Youth Deserves a Family
While she was in foster care, Jessica was never asked what she wanted.
“No one ever talked about adoption,” she remembers. “I wanted a family and I would have considered adoption, but no one ever asked. The scary part was when I turned 18. I had nowhere to go. They told me, ‘When you turn 18, basically, you’re done.’ When I left, I was unprepared to be on my own. I didn’t know anything about finances. I had gone to independent living classes, but I couldn’t remember anything.”
Once she aged out of care, Jessica spent several years working and partying, and then became pregnant. Every youth in foster care needs and deserves a permanent family. Despite the nation’s stated goal to achieve permanency for children, in 2007 more than 28,000 youth aged out of foster care, meaning they left the child welfare system without a permanent family.
“They always talking about this Permanency stuff. You know social workers . . . lawyers . . . always using these big social work terms to talk about simple things. One day one of them finally described what she meant by permanency. After I listened to her description, which was the first time anyone ever told me what the term meant, I said, ÔOh, thatÕs what you mean? Yeah, I want permanency in my life. I donÕt think I ever had that! When can I get it?” Youth in foster care
The number of youth who age out of foster care has risen steadily over the past decade, even in the wake of increased efforts to achieve permanence for all children in foster care. For far too many youth, aging out of care results in homelessness, work instability, and a lack of stable, loving relationships with adults. These grim facts are even more heartbreaking because we know these youth could have found a permanent family, if only they had been given the chance.
We must and can achieve true permanence for older youth in foster care; it will require intentional, specialized strategies to make it happen. We have seen that, with focused effort, it is entirely possible to connect older youth—even those who have been waiting the longest in foster care—with permanent adoptive families. This publication highlights successful strategies for achieving adoption for older youth and breaking down barriers that block a youth’s path to permanency.