Each year, thousands upon thousands of teens age out of foster care. Each year, thousands upon thousands of former foster teens end up unemployed, homeless, and even in jail. Each year, society continues to ignore these young adults in need. Is there any way to help them? More importantly, can you help them?
You can help them, and it begins with education. Research has shown that most foster children struggle with academics while in school. After school and college tutoring programs are helpful to those who have aged out, as they not only help the young adult with the material being studied, but also help to develop stronger study learning skills. As many aged out foster youth cannot afford school, assistance in this manner is most helpful. Communities can begin a foster scholarship fund, setting up a college fund for those foster children wishing to further their education. Supplies for school can be donated to local foster care agencies who work with children who will soon age out. These supplies can include paper, pencils, pens, calculators, backpacks, and other school needs. For those who are enrolled in college, bookstore gift cards and certificates can also be quite beneficial.
Along with school supply donations, household goods are also of great use to aged out youths. Clothes, cooking and bedding items, electrical appliances, furniture, and other household items can be donated to local foster care agencies. Contact the local foster care agency and ask about being a transporter, or driver, one that provides transportation to aged out youth. As most former foster children struggle with money, it is likely that they will not have cars or means of transportation. Volunteers can help by providing transportation to job interviews, school venues, and medical appointments.
For those businesses who wish to assist aged out foster children, discounts on services and goods are most helpful. Whether it is clothing, groceries, computer, phones, and other electronic devices, medications, and even legal and financial services, discounts on these can help those former foster youth who are struggling financially. Those who own a business or service may also wish to consider hiring former foster children, and train them with the skills that fit the particular business or service and helping them develop workforce skills.
Yet, the biggest impact you can make with those who have aged out of the foster care system is to become an advocate of change. By contacting lawmakers, politicians, and publicity agents through means of emails, letters, phone calls, and other means of communication, one can bring attention to the needs of these young adults who are facing a series of challenges after leaving the foster care system. Along with this, posting information in editorial letters, websites, public forums, and so forth can encourage others to help, as well. By lobbying for change, new laws can be introduced, and information can be brought forward to the general public.
If we do not reach out to these former foster children, now young adults, and find ways to help, then we damage our own society, in a variety of levels. It is up to us, you and I, to help. After all, if not you, than who?