Aging Out of the System
Sarah entered foster care when she was 16 years old. She has a long history of people
abandoning her throughout her life. The trauma she has endured from this abandonment has caused her to feel a lot of mistrust in the people around her and feeling alone in this big system we call foster care. Sarah was not perfect while in foster care, what teenager is? She was moved from placement to placement when she would act out or runaway (one time) and no one gave her a chance…. Except the CASA. Sarah’s CASA, has been by Sarah’s side since the beginning of the revolving doors of case managers, attorneys, and placements. I firmly believe without the persistence and support from the CASA, we would have lost Sarah even more to the negative outcomes of children in foster care.
Sarah was not doing well in school due to her numerous placement changes but was
determined to get her GED so that she can go to college one day. She has big dreams to be
successful. But, there was a lot of problems with that process. Sarah, at this time was living in a hotel because placement could not be located for her and the CASA had to step in to find financial resources for her to take her GED because the steps for the State to pay for this would take weeks and those weeks would turn into more discouragement for Sarah with a system that has already not followed through on promises before. The CASA was able to get GED testing paid for. Within a week, Sarah had her GED! She passed with high scores all on her first try. We were over the moon excited for her!
As time was getting closer and closer to Sarah turning 18, we knew the clock was ticking
fast to help encourage her to stay in foster care to receive all the benefits that come with that. The CASA helped schedule a tour of a local Transitional Living Placement so Sarah could see first hand what it looked like and what all was offered to help her into adulthood. This motivated Sarah to want to stay in care but she was also adamant that if she was not in a transitional living placement as promised by the time she turned 18, she would be signing out. Again, this is coming from a youth who is already so frustrated with being told mistruths and things not happening as explained, she was giving one more chance to not be let down.
In order to be approved for independent living for youth over 18, there has to be approval from the State representatives for this to occur. Sarah was assessed and denied for transitional housing a couple days after she turned 18. This upset Sarah and she immediately wanted to sign out of foster care and just leave the state completely. The reasoning behind Sarah being denied were not fair in the eyes of Sarah and does not reflect supporting our older youth aging out of care, but stifling them more into the horrible statistics that we have for our youth turning 18 that include homelessness and incarceration. We have a motivated youth that has plans for her future and is motivated to do well but needs support. The support of her “parent” (The State). The reasoning for denial stemmed from past behaviors of not so good coping skills. Coping skills that Sarah has been able to articulate how she has improved and continues to plan to improve going forward in her life. But that was not good enough. The very things that she was denied services for were the same things that the numerous case managers never referred her for services for. Our older youth deserve a chance for a positive outcome with all the resources that a youth not in foster care would have from their parents. Sarah wasn’t given a chance, all of our youth deserve a chance.
About the Author