Tag Archives: Youth disconnection

Transitioning into Disconnection: The Need To Reevaluate America’s Foster-Care System

Aging out of the foster care system without being properly equipped for survival is one cause for youth disconnection. Approximately 29,000 youths are released from foster care every year at the age of 18. Foster care youth do not have personal assets or financial savings to rely on once they have left the foster care system. This makes it extremely difficult to secure housing or withstand the effects of unforeseen problems in their personal lives or with the economy. Additionally, unlike other teenagers these youth do not have a network of family and friends which they can turn to for assistance. They are completely on their own and thus, susceptible to a number of problems.

Released foster youth are also forced to grow up faster than ordinary youth because they do not have the emotional and financial support one needs when things suddenly go wrong in life. They must quickly muster the responsibility, diligence, and patience necessary to cope with all of the “adult battles” they will face once released from the foster care system. Without the necessary aid and proper transitioning training, these youths may fall prey to homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, criminality, substance abuse, along with several other problems.

The principal program designed to support youth during their transition from foster care to living independently is the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. It provides about $140 million in funding every year for mental health services, mentoring, employment preparation, educational aid, stipends for housing, and extended Medicaid eligibility. Although this bill looks promising, it is severely limited. Only two-fifths of youth receive independent living services and availability varies widely from state to state. Also, although the budget is a large sum of money, it only translates to about $1,000 per youth, which is barely enough to afford decent housing conditions. A bill recently signed into effect, the Fostering Connections to Success Act, is better able to provide the funding these youth need. Unfortunately—and unwisely—states are not mandated to utilize this funding and many have actually chosen to discontinue foster care benefits when the youth is released.

It has been discovered that released youth who receive foster care benefits until the age of 21 have a greater chance of avoiding the challenges of transitioning from foster care to living independently. Clark Peters, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work, believes that all states should extend foster care benefits. According to his research, “Foster youth who continue to receive benefits through age 21 have improved outcomes including a greater likelihood of attending college and achieving financial stability.”

In his study, Peters also found that having the benefits of continued care outweighed the costs of not having it by 2 to 1. In other words, youth that receive the aid have more opportunities to make effective changes to living independently and as a result, they utilize fewer governmental benefits later in life and have higher incomes (resulting in more tax revenue for state and federal governments). Therefore, there is real incentive on the governments’ part to extend these benefits—not only is it advantageous for the foster care youth but also for the society as a whole.

Obviously states do not realize the implications of allowing foster youth to receive their aid. Nonetheless, there are a number of non-government supported programs in the United States that are dedicated to helping released youth make a successful transition out of the foster care system. Their endeavors, however, would be a little less challenging if more states were willing to extend foster care benefits.

Sources:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110203141826.htm;
http://www.transad.pop.upenn.edu/downloads/courtney–foster%20care.pdf
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

1 Comment

Filed under ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development

Protecting Today’s Youth: Should The Homeless Also Be Hopeless?

Many of us are conditioned to be afraid of homeless people. As you examine the man behind the filthy clothes, the excruciating stench, and the unshaven face, your mind unwillingly bombards you with stereotypes. They may be deranged drug-addicts who might harm you if you look at them in a peculiar way. Or perhaps they are criminals who will rob you if you make any movement towards your wallet. These kinds of thoughts might even be exaggerated when faced with a homeless person of a particularly young age. Homeless youths tend to have a “thuggish” appearance and are often perceived as delinquent and dangerous.

Statistics

Ironically, the same people we are habituated to fear have a greater risk than the general population of being victims of crimes themselves. A report released by researchers at York University and the University of Guelph states that ‘approximately seventy-six percent of homeless youths were victims of crime during the year 2009’. The study, conducted at agencies serving youths in downtown Toronto and the suburbs, also mentions that ‘three-quarters of the surveyed youths reported multiple incidents of being abused.  In comparison, ‘approximately forty percent of young people in the general population testified to being victimized and the severity of their cases was relatively low’. They reported experiencing property crime whereas homeless youths are usually the victims of violent crimes. Stephen Gaetz, one of the researchers who conducted the survey expressed that “many people, including policy makers, believe that youth homelessness and crime are linked, and they use laws such as the Safe Streets Act to ‘move along’ young people. In fact, our findings show that young homeless people are among the most victimized people in our society, and they need our protection.”

Causes

The first step, it seems, to addressing this issue is to recognize that homelessness is not always due to negligence and reckless behavior. Economic factors are the primary reason why people become homeless. With youths, however, there are a number of things that might cause this to occur such as dropping out of school, aging out of the foster care system, poverty, early parenthood, etc. A number of these young people do not have anywhere in which to turn.

During the study, it was also exposed that youths who had become homeless at the age of sixteen or seventeen were much more likely to have been violently victimized than young people who became homeless at a later age. Homeless youth victimization is an inexcusable and overlooked phenomenon which should not be muddled by societal stereotypes of disconnected young people and what they might be capable of. There are a number of agencies in the United States dedicated to serving children and young adults because they are the most impressionable and vulnerable members of our society. When lawmakers pledge to work for the public good of the constituents of their states, that oath should encompass even those who sleep on benches.

Solutions

Therefore, rather than finding methods to “move them along,” we need to attempt to resolve the underlying issues as well as to discover positive ways to get these young people off the streets. There needs to be a balance of preventive measures and emergency response to keep youth from being victimized, and support programs to help them out of homelessness and into productive environments. This is what Re:LIFE aims to do. (Visit Re:LIFE Inc’s Website to learn more about the different things we do to better youth lives)

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100927105203.htm

 

authored by:
Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

 

 

Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

3 Comments

Filed under ReLIFE, Uncategorized, www.relifeinc.org, Youth