The connection between my experiences and April Greyson’s experience, shown in the short film “Little April,” as a juvenile justice-impacted foster youth was that we didn’t have a voice to speak about what we wanted to happen after we aged out of the system. April went through a lot from a young age. She didn’t have much support from anybody. When she got older, she ended up in prison for a long time. I admire her for staying strong, even though she didn’t have anybody supporting her.
Over 23,000 children age out of foster care yearly after turning 18. We then face the world of adulthood without proper guidance or support. We are at a greater risk of homelessness, suffering from mental health issues, lack of family connections, and unemployment. Unfortunately, these struggles can increase for young women in many ways.
- Mental Health: Entering the system as a child or teenager is highly traumatic. Foster youths are often separated from their families, and many youths have experienced neglect, abuse, or violence. Approximately 80 percent of children in foster care have significant mental health problems compared to those from the general population. Youth within the foster system who suffer from mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, should be treated with more attention because they have the most to lose.
- Lack of family connections: A poor family connection can significantly impact an individual’s emotional, social, and psychological well-being. Growing up in a family with poor connections can result in loneliness, isolation, and low self-esteem. Children may struggle to form healthy relationships with others, leading to difficulties in making friends and building social skills. Also, it can contribute to a lack of communication between family members, resulting in conflicts and misunderstandings. Addressing these issues early on is crucial to improving connections and promoting healthy relationships.
- Unemployment: This, after foster care, is a daunting challenge for many young adults. Without a stable support system, they may not be able to find employment or maintain steady work. This can lead to financial insecurity and difficulty making ends meet. For former youth, unemployment can also lead to isolation and disconnection from society. With a job, former foster youth may find it easier to establish a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. Addressing unemployment among former foster youth requires a multi-faceted approach, including education and training programs, mentorship and career counseling, and mental health and well-being support. By investing in these areas, we can ensure that all young people have the opportunity to thrive and succeed.
There is much more to be done and improved. Foster care agencies need to create a supportive and stable environment for foster children to thrive within and outside of the system. This can be achieved by providing consistent and reliable caregivers, ensuring access to quality education and healthcare, and offering resources for mental health support.
Agencies can also prioritize family reunification and provide services to help parents regain custody of their children. In addition, the agency can work with community organizations to provide mentorship and support for foster children as they transition into adulthood. By prioritizing the well-being and stability of foster children, agencies can help improve outcomes for vulnerable populations.
Focusing on caregivers and the children in their care is essential in training for foster care agencies. Caregivers should receive comprehensive training on trauma-informed respect, behavior management, and cultural sensitivity. Additionally, agencies should implement policies that prioritize the safety and well-being of the children, including regular home visits, background checks for caregivers, and protocols for reporting abuse or neglect. It is also vital for agencies to provide ongoing support and resources for caregivers to ensure they have the tools they need to deliver the best possible care. Investing in training and policies for foster care agencies can create a safer and more supportive environment for children in foster care.
One of the most critical aspects of foster care agencies’ work is to also help foster youth with employment. Foster youth often face significant challenges in finding and keeping a job. They may lack the necessary skills, experience, and support to succeed in the workforce. To address these challenges, foster care agencies need to provide various services and support to help foster youth with employment by providing job training and skills development programs. These programs should be tailored to the needs of foster youth and should focus on developing the skills that are most in demand in the job market, such as computer skills, communication skills, and problem-solving skills. They should also be given the opportunity to gain work experience through internships, apprenticeships, and other work-based learning programs.
Additionally, foster care agencies must provide job placement services. Foster youth often struggle to find employment on their own and may not have the necessary connections or resources to access job opportunities. Foster care agencies should work with employers to create job opportunities for foster youth and should help foster youth apply to and secure these jobs. They should also provide ongoing support to foster youth once they are employed to help them succeed in their careers and to address any challenges that may arise.
Also, foster care agencies need to provide financial support to foster youth who are working. Foster youth often face financial challenges, such as paying for transportation, clothing, and other work-related expenses. Foster care agencies should provide financial assistance to help foster youth with these expenses. They should also help foster youth to manage their finances and save money for the future. Foster care agencies also need to provide emotional support to foster youth who are working. Foster youth may face a range of emotional challenges when they are working, such as stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Foster care agencies should provide counseling and other support services to help foster youth to cope with these challenges and to build resilience.
In conclusion, foster care agencies are critical in helping foster youth with gaining employment, managing mental health issues, and sustaining healthy relationships. To be effective, they need to provide a range of services and support, including job training and skills development programs, job placement services, financial support, and emotional support. By providing these services, foster care agencies can help foster youth to succeed.