It isn’t all that uncommon for former foster youth to live in poverty after transitioning out of the foster care system.
To give you a better idea, let me provide you with some numbers.
After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless, according to the National Foster Youth Institute. Only one out of every two foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of employment by age 24, and there is less than a 3 % chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
“Most people think that after you leave care you return to your family, which is not the case,” said former foster youth Timothy Coburn.
Foster youth lack many resources — the things that most of our peers take for granted — such as living with Mom and Dad, having reliable transportation and having a financial safety net. Because there is so much working against us foster youth, we have to take advantage of local resources, such as finding a safe place to study, laundry services, Wi-Fi, and of course, hot meals. It is not uncommon for most youth to go hungry. Instead of purchasing food, many of us use our check to pay our rent and phone bill, which are sometimes more important than eating. Many people can’t fathom making these types of decisions, until now with the COVID-19 pandemic. People are losing work, which makes it hard for them to pay rent and buy groceries.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the resources I relied on have come to a halt. These resources include services provided by the Dream Center and Bakersfield College, which have both closed down in response to the pandemic. A number of other organizations and elected officials have put together food distribution drives for those in need during this pandemic. For example, the Bakersfield Angels have taken this into consideration and have been taking action by delivering groceries and money.
I’ve heard from multiple foster youth that they appreciate the Bakersfield Angels’ efforts, but wonder why it took this pandemic to recognize the needs of local foster youth. It’s not fun living in poverty, and it’s not fun depending on others to provide us resources as much as we do. This pandemic made me realize that I have never been on an equal playing field as my peers. I don’t want to keep living off the snacks from the NextUp office at Bakersfield College. It’s embarrassing. The foster care system is designed for us to be handicapped by welfare, and I think it’s wrong that I can’t focus on school because I have to make ends meet by taking on full-time jobs.
These resources that are now being distributed should be available not only during a crisis, but year-round since us foster youth live in this constant state of uncertainty every single day. Staying productive by going to college is what gives me hope, but I know I might have to quit school to find a job to support myself when resources are cut off when I turn 24 very soon.
Fabian Tolan was born in 1996 and grew up in foster care until being adopted at age 7. Unfortunately, his adoptive parents faced many health issues and died two years apart when he was 12 and then 14. Tolan still loves his life and gets by in life by running, playing guitar and going to school. He really enjoys sushi and Chipotle burritos. Tolan is currently a journalist for South Kern Sol News writing about things he feels passionate about. In the future he plans to become a chef and work in a nice restaurant. He would also like to start a mentor program for at-risk youth.