For most children, growing up and transitioning into adulthood is a gradual process that involves learning to assume “adult” responsibilities from parents over an extended period of time. However, for children who grow up in foster care with the state as their statutory parent, the transition to adulthood can be abrupt and harsh. Many are unprepared for all of the financial and personal responsibilities that come with this sudden independence, and struggle to find work, earn a living, support themselves and their children, and even find a home.
In December 2012, Connecticut Voices for Children, the Center for Children’s Advocacy, and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative organized “Success Beyond 18 – A Conference Exploring Supports and Services for Older Youth in Foster Care.” This conference brought together over 150 interested participants, including youth in foster care, social workers, lawyers, advocates, foster and adoptive parents, Department Commissioners, and state legislators to learn about both the importance of supporting youth who grow up in foster care as they transition into adulthood, and the new opportunities to do so presented by the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.
We’ve assembled some highlights of speakers, including young people who were involved with the foster care system, in this brief video:
A highlight of our conference was a panel composed both of older youth in DCF care and experienced social workers. Panelists discussed the challenges they, their peers, or the youth they had served faced transitioning to adulthood in foster care. They described the kinds of support they felt was necessary for youth who grow up in state custody to lead healthy and successful adult lives. All the panelists talked about how important it was that services and supports be age appropriate -– foster care can’t look the same for babies, 13-year-olds, and 20-year-olds. They also stressed that youth can’t be expected to assume every adult responsibility all at once when the 18th, 21st, or even the 23rd birthday arrives – rather, it’s important that foster parents and social workers help youth gradually take on responsibilities as they grow older.
We also saw a video of some of the young people on Connecticut’s Youth Advisory Boards, who talked about the apprehensions youth in foster care have as the time to age out approaches. We heard from a leading national researcher, who told us about the challenges youth who age out of foster care face, and about the potential benefits of allowing youth to remain in care until at least their 21st birthdays. Experts from California and Pennsylvania discussed how their states had taken advantage of Fostering Connections. Finally, the Commissioners of DCF and DMHAS, and the Chief Administrative Judge of Connecticut Juvenile Court, all talked about what their departments are doing already to help support these young men and women, and where they felt there was room for improvement.
You can check out some of the highlights from our event in the video above, as well as download the handouts and PowerPoints from the event. If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, feel free to contact Kenny Feder at email@example.com.