Aging Out of Foster Care
For many adolescents, their 18th birthday is a time of celebration. They are usually graduating high school and preparing for college or whatever the next stage in their life holds. For an adolescent in the foster care system, turning 18 means that they will be aging out. In 2012, in the United States, some 23,439 children in the foster care system turned 18 and aged out, sent into the world without any support at all.
For these adolescents, their childhood has often been one of abuse and neglect. There was a specific reason why they were removed from the care of their parents, often coping with feelings of abandonment. Aging out of the foster care system often only adds to that abandonment.
As many as one in five adolescents aging out of the system will become homeless. About half will be unemployed. Less than 3 percent will earn a college degree, and 71 percent of women aging out will become pregnant by the time they turn 21. It is also estimated that one in every four experiences some form of PTSD, a rate twice that of U.S. combat veterans.
There is a financial cost to aging out of foster care to the larger society as well. On average, studies indicate that for every adolescent who has aged out, the community spends as much as $300,000 in social costs, such as public assistance, lost wages and incarceration over the course of a lifetime. Aging out of foster care is a no-win situation for children and society.