AGING OUT OF CARE SERIES PART 2
BUILDING TRUST AND BELONGING
As children grow up in the foster care system they often move around a lot. This can result in youth never getting a chance to build lasting relationships before aging out of care, and they can often feel like they aren’t prioritized.
Because of this, youth don’t always take advantage of the programs and services available to them, programs like how to get funding for post-secondary school, job training, and how to find affordable housing. When youth are unaware of these programs, or don’t take advantage of them, aging out of the foster care system can become much more challenging.
At SOS Children’s Village BC, we work to build a safe space to assure that youth have access to programs and services they need and have the opportunity to build supportive and lasting relationships. Then, when youth do age out of care, they have the knowledge and resources to help them thrive as adults.
Access to Resources
The teenage years of our lives are tough enough to go through as it is. You’re learning how to manage the pieces of growing up and trying to find your place in the world.
For youth in care, and those aging out of care, it can be even more difficult. Youth in care are often expected to grow up much faster than their peers, and when they age out, they are expected to become independent. For most youth at this age this is an unrealistic expectation, as studies show that youth from stable families live at home until they are in their mid-twenties.
Many times, youth don’t have a strong support system to lean on as they age out of care. The majority of youth can’t go back to their foster families or live with relatives, and they might not have created a strong relationship with their social worker. Without a strong support system, youth are often unaware of the resources available to them or tend to not want to take advantage of them because they’re angry at who is offering them.
Supporting youth and ensuring that they are not only aware of the resources available to them, but also accessing them, is something very important to us at SOS BC. We meet youth ‘where they are at’. Instead of saying “tell us your experiences and we’ll help you through it” we work with youth to find out what their goals are and how we can help them get there.
Our Transition to Adulthood program helps youth who are aging out of care have access to job opportunities, teaches them to live independently while still having a strong support system, and ensures they gain the life skills needed to become an adult.
Youth in care are moving frequently, with an average of up to three different moves per year. That’s three different schools, three different homes, three different communities, which can make it hard for youth in care to build lasting relationships. Building relationships is important for a youth’s development as they can provide them with positive opportunities and ensure that their transition to adulthood is successful.
Social workers are sometimes the only constant in a youth’s life, but when they have a maximum capacity caseload, they can usually only see the kids once every few months or when there is an emergency. This puts youth in a position where they can feel a lack of connection to families and social workers. As a result, youth are often aging out of care without having a strong support system or any positive relationships. Studies have shown that nearly half of youth aging out of care do not have positive relationships with supportive and caring adults.
When youth have supportive relationships in their lives, it can prevent negative outcomes and can work as a buffer against any negative impacts of growing up in the foster care system.
Because of this, we work to build relationships where we can be a reliable and trusting resource for youth. We create an environment that is safe, trusted, and provides opportunity, while working in the best interests of the youth. It’s important that our youth know they have constant support – whether that’s with mental health, looking for a job, or applying for post-secondary school – we make sure our youth feel like a priority.
Often it feels like no one wants to pay attention to youth until they become a tragedy. But SOS BC is trying to prevent youth from getting to that point in the first place. We create a space where youth feel that they belong, without the judgement of their history or trauma. Building those positive relationships, and having programs like our Transition to Adulthood program, ensures that youth are able to successfully navigate adulthood when they eventually age out of care.
Our goal is always to make sure that our youth are fully prepared and supported as they venture into their next steps in life.
By Jacklin Buckingham, Communications Assistant
Edited by William Brennan
Watch a great video on YouTube “What I Would Tell My 18 Year Old Self” made by a young woman in Texas with advice for youth who will soon be leaving the system