What Happens to Foster Children When They Turn 18?
Where do Foster children go after childhood?
In most mainstream media, fostering and adoption involve bringing a bright-eyed, chubby-cheeked baby home from the hospital. In reality, many children in foster care are more likely to be dealing with acne and high school drama than wearing onesies or attending preschool.
Are you interested in learning about older foster children? Would you mind reading to understand what it means to age out of the foster care system?
Who Are Foster Parents?
Foster parents can be family members or friends who step up to care for a child they know or strangers who become certified to bring children into their homes.
Foster parents can be young (as young as 21 in some states!) or older, married or single, low-income or wealthy--it doesn’t matter. As long the potential foster parent does all of their training, makes enough money to care for themselves, completes all the necessary paperwork, and passes the home study--they can be a foster parent.
Of course, the essential requirement is a passion for helping children and youth!
Fostering in Virginia
There are many different types of foster parents, and they are needed in the Virginia foster care system. Through child placement agencies like Extra Special Parents and referral networks like FosterVA, foster parents can help to best suit them and have the best impact on the children involved.
Virginia Foster Parent Training
Foster Parent Training focuses on strength-based parenting, trauma-informed care, and other topics needed to provide the best care for an incoming foster child.
Types of Foster Parents in Virginia
Not every person is suited for every fostering--and that is okay! Licensed Child Placing Agencies (such as Extra Special Parents) can work with you to figure out the best types of placements for you and your family. There are three main types of foster parents in Virginia.
The three types of foster parents are:
- Regular Foster Care involves the provision of a temporary and loving home for a child while the state works to help the parents toward a reunification plan
- Treatment Foster Care involves working with children who are medically fragile or have undergone intense trauma situations.
- Foster to Adopt involves the termination of parental rights from the birth family and a legal transition for the child into a new, permanent family placement.
What Is the Likelihood of Aging Out of Foster Care?
Every year, roughly 20,000 children age out of the foster care system. At least 20% of these kids will become homeless after aging out of the system. At the same time, there have been advancements in transitional funding for foster kids up to 21.
Older foster children and large sibling groups are less likely to be adopted into permanent placements.
Where Do Foster Children Go After Childhood?
Former foster children face a litany of challenges as they enter adulthood. They may be uncertain of how to deal with adulthood. Depending on their situation, they might have led a childhood with little permanence or stability.
These issues are due to systemic problems facing foster children. Foster children are less likely than their peers to go to college, and they are more likely to end up in prison or homeless. Many advocates are working to help these young adults better adjust to the world outside of the foster care system.
Some organizations that help foster youth transition into adulthood are Foster Care Alumni of America, the National Independent Living Association, and more. Some former foster parents stay in contact with foster youth who have aged out of the system and provide emotional support and stability.
Statistics on Foster Children in Virginia
There are many foster children in Virginia, some needing a temporary home for a few nights, and others looking for forever families.
Here are some critical facts about foster children in Virginia:
- There are over 5,000 foster children in Virginia currently waiting for family reunification.
- There are 1,700 foster children in Virginia looking for forever families.
- Twenty-nine children died in Virginia in 2020 due to reported abuse or neglect.
- 25% of foster children are eventually diagnosed with PTSD, leading to lifelong struggles with mental health.
Statistics on Adult Foster Children in the U.S.
Many people don’t think about what happens to foster youth after they become adults. They are a silent population that deals with extraordinary struggles in early adulthood.
Here are some relevant statistics about older foster youth:
- Seventy percent of female former foster kids will be pregnant before they reach the age of 21
- Under 3 percent of all foster youth earn a college degree.
- One in every five foster youth is homeless when they age out of the system at 18
- Ten percent of foster children are placed in institutions and group homes, many of whom are older teenagers.
- Four percent of foster cases have the goal of emancipation, but over 50 percent have the goal of reunification.
It is essential to recognize that every child is different and that no foster child should be looked at merely as a statistic. Suppose we work to provide caring homes and quality education. In that case, someday, these statistics can become a thing of the past.
How Can You Help?
When many people think of fostering and adoption, they think of small children, maybe even babies. The truth is that a child’s chances of getting adopted drastically decrease the older they get.
People often think that older foster children have dealt with too much trauma or have too many challenges. Some feel that they are qualified to take in a teenager.
But many amazing foster kids need good foster homes and adoptive homes, and they have so much to offer their new families. They have lifetimes of experiences that they carry with them.
Suppose you are interested in fostering or adopting a teenager from foster care. In that case, you can help reduce their risk of homelessness or other struggles once they reach adulthood. You can give them a family, a safe place to land, and a home to come back to.
Interested in Learning More?
Do you want to do more research or find a way to help older foster children? You can get involved in your state’s foster care system in many ways.
Head to our FAQ page to see the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about becoming a foster parent. There are many ways to help, and more people are eligible to foster than you might think!
Please remember that the process of becoming a foster parent is long. Still, FosterVA is available to help you at a pace you are comfortable with.
Fostering is not something that anyone should try to sell you. This is a gift you give to a child in need, which takes time.
If you have other questions or want to speak with a specialist, fill out our contact form, and we will get back to you soon to start your foster care journey.