If you are familiar with the foster care system then you may also be familiar with the term “aging out”. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, 23,000 teens will age out of the foster care system each year.
What does it mean to “age out” of Foster Care?
Generally, the term “aging out” refers to an individual who turns 18 while in foster care without securing any type of permanency. This could include reunification with a biological parent, adoption, or permanent legal custody with another caregiver. The age at which this happens can vary as some states allow foster care to extend until an individual turns 21.
Why Aging Out of Foster Care Happens
“Aging out” can occur for multiple reasons, it varies case by case. Many times we see caregivers prefer to care for younger children which provides fewer safe options for the teens we work with. Unfortunately, without enough foster homes or caregivers for teens in need of therapeutic foster services, we see them reside in group homes that provide no permanency options.
Many youths may get to the point where they opt for supervised independent living, which can be a good way to foster independence but leave them without much support and guidance. Many who choose this option aren’t able to become financially independent by the time they need to in order to continue living on their own without assistance.
Making a Difference Through Therapeutic Foster Care
The reality is, for many of the teens we work with at Benchmark Family Services, their foster homes are the only example of a safe home and supportive family they will get. As foster parents, you get the incredible honor and responsibility of helping raise young men and women to become successful adults.
For those who “age out” of foster care, the example set by their foster parents and the experiences they had in their foster homes will shape the adults they become.
As a Therapeutic Foster Care Agency in Kentucky and Indiana, this is even more true. As Therapeutic foster care serves a unique population of kids and youth, they may have unique needs when they leave foster care.
We strive to be sure each teen and young adult we serve can be set up for success when they turn 18 or 21 and start independent living. Of course, reunification or adoption are still the best options for youth to have lasting support and guidance into adulthood. If those aren’t options we like to see what other relationships and programs they could be benefiting from when they leave Foster Care.
The role of a foster parent may not be forever, but the impact will last a lifetime. If you are interested in becoming a therapeutic foster parent contact our team at Benchmark Family Services. We are continuing to grow our network of incredible foster homes to help in our mission to provide safe places for teens to become adults.