Homelessness and Former Foster Youth
Homelessness in the former foster youth population is disproportionately high. Statistics have shown rates as high as nearly 50% of former foster youth becoming homeless by the age of 26. With the numbers clearing showing significant risk, what can we do to help prevent this likelihood. Youth in foster care
Youth in foster care often come with significant history of trauma. The initial act of being take from your parents is traumatic, let alone all youth has experienced prior to the removal. There are programs and resources that are available but programs and resources are back end services. Front end support is our first line of defense from homelessness.
The Village to Prevent Homelessness
The first step for these youth, make sure that you get them connected. Connection to mentors, extended family, biological family, offending and non-parents (per youths desire), community partners, adult siblings and will directly impact the future risk of homelessness for these youth. One person does not have to meet every single need for the youth. Hopefully, a village of people can help them address the barriers instead of just one.
Listen to Your Youth
If you listen, your youth will tell you exactly what their plans for their future are. If it isn’t through words, they will show you with them behavior. Several of my clients I have worked with talk about reconnecting to their mother. D&N’s were filed when they were young and they still want to know their mom. They told me that when the Department was no long involved, they would be with that parent. We need to listen and help them reach these goals.
During one of these cases, I fought to get mom reengaged when the team disagreed because rights had been terminated. He was removed when he was 2 and continued to be in our care when was 19. This youth was determined to have a relationship with mom. We had a chance to step in and help them reconnect with our support. They did family therapy, they spent time together, and supportive service helped them to build a healthier relationship than if we had shut her out until his case closed. This was a very challenging youth, who continues to have high behavioral needs. After all of this, mom was the only long term connection this youth had.
Know What’s Out There
The second step is know what is available for your youth prior to leaving care and also after they have left. If a youth is in a placement on their 18th birthday, they be eligible for certain perks: Medicaid to 26, the Education Training Voucher, Chafee Services, and housing voucher options. When the case is closed prior to that the youth loses all of these support services. It is important to keep in mind that it is not OK to prevent permanency for the access to services but workers must be mindful of what they might be losing. Closing a 17 year old an month before they turn 18 is an irresponsible move for any worker. Sadly, we know that older youth adoptions have higher failure rates. Postpone it a month to allow the youth to receive the services.
Permanency planning means always having a plan B to prevent homelessness in former foster youth.