What Happens When Teens Age Out of the Foster Care System?

Although most children eagerly count down the days until their eighteenth birthday, this is not the case for some unfortunate children. Teens in the foster care system know that eighteen is a year to dread. This is the year they will potentially become homeless after removal from their foster homes as teens age out of the system.

Once children reach the age of eighteen there is no more funding for foster families, because that is the threshold where the supposed “adults” are no longer eligible to receive assistance from the state. Yet eighteen is hardly an adult. Some of these youths are still in high school. According to the Children’s Rights Organization foster children are far less likely to obtain a high school diploma and often cease attending after aging out.

Adoption Becomes Harder as They Get Older

Foster teen who is in danger of becoming one of those teens age out of the system
Portrait of a teen outdoors.

The problem for the 20,000 teens aging out of the system each year is that once they reach a certain age their chances of adoption have plummeted. According to Covenant House, a high percentage of these teens go straight from foster care to the streets.

To make for an even poorer outlook for those reaching adulthood without guidance, the National Public Radio (NPR) states teens are far more likely to:

  • Be arrested and/or serve jail time
  • Become addicted to drugs
  • Have one or more children by the age of 24
  • Live in severe poverty or homelessness
  • Never even attend college, nonetheless get a degree
  • Rely on welfare like food stamps for their only income
  • Visit the emergency room twice as often as their peers

What Can & Has Been Done

Thankfully there have been some improvements made to this system, although it is far from fixed yet. Some states allow children to continue receiving funding until they graduate high school, while others have continued to provide the foster children themselves with monies if they opt to attend college.

What some people have been trying to push for is the continuation of benefits until age 21. This would help to ease the transition from childhood to adulthood. The theory is that by easing the transition from childhood to adulthood they can create better lives for the afflicted youth and cut down on the rates of arrests, welfare, emergency care, and more.

The biggest difference that could be made for these youths, however, is getting adopted. Teens need ties to a responsible adult. They need someone to help teach them valuable life skills and provide a solid home base. Unfortunately, once a child ages into a teen while still in foster care their chances of finding an adopted family are slim to none.

Learn More About When Teens Age Out of the System

If you would like more information on how you can help teenagers who are aging out of the foster care system or to find out how to become a foster parent, contact us today.