Foster youth who age out of care are struggling to make it in the real world. Reiterating our commitment to better preparing our foster youth for life on their own, The Foundling’s CEO, Bill Baccaglini, discusses some of our initiatives to pave the road to independence for our youth in 2014:
I think we can all agree that the figures above are unacceptable. In our current system, when a young man or woman in foster care turns 21, they “age out” of the system and, in the process, lose the only support system they’ve known for most of their lives. The fact is, we have all failed to adequately prepare our youth who grow up in foster care for life on their own. These young men and women have been through more than many of us can imagine: abuse, neglect, poverty, and unstable home environments have all made the road to independence much more difficult. That is precisely why we all need to do more to help each young person in foster care learn the skills necessary to transition smoothly into adulthood.
In the coming year, The Foundling is instituting a number of new and revamped holistic initiatives to help pave the road to independence for the 400 14-21 year-olds in our care:
- Educational Support–
This fall, The Foundling instituted our “Road to Success” tutoring program, through help from the Hilton Foundation. One of the most intensive tutoring programs to date, Road to Success provides individualized tutoring and college preparation to Foundling 8th graders each year until they graduate high school. 2014 also marks the second full-year of our Educational Specialists, who serve as in-school advocates for our youth in foster care that are struggling to get on grade-level, or need an extra push to get into college. In 2013, we also saw our first graduating 5th-grade class from Haven Academy, our charter school designed to meet the needs of children in the child welfare system. By giving our youngest kids in the system an excellent education, we provide the proper foundation for their success down the road.
- Housing– The Foundling is placing a premium on finding secure and independent housing for all of our older youth before they age out of care. Statistics show that 32% of youth that age out fail to find stable housing. This can lead homelessness soon after leaving foster care. Our Foundling social workers are helping each of our youth apply for NYCHA housing and expedite their applications so that they don’t face this problem when they age out.
- Mental Health Assistance– Many of our older youth in foster care are struggling to cope with years of trauma. It would be hard for any person to excel without working through the emotionally scarring moments from their past. The Foundling is providing mental health assistance for many of our youth this year to help them overcome the root causes of their difficulty, and begin the healing process. By giving that extra therapy, we give our kids the chance to focus on their future, not their past.
These are just some of the ways The Foundling is doubling-down in 2014 to empower our youth with the skills they need to become successful adults. But we cannot do this alone. More people need to advocate for the over 12,000 youth in foster care throughout New York City. We need to treat these children as our own. Together, we can truly pave the road to independence for all children in foster care.