What Happens When Kids in Foster Care Turn 18?
Most do not know what happens in the foster care system or what happens when kids do not find families by the time they are 18. More than 23,000 kids every year are emancipated (aged out) of the foster system with no family, guidance, money, or shelter.
The Brutal Truth
Here are some facts about kids who age out of the foster care system to shed light on the seriousness of the foster care system.
- In 2019, more than 20,000 kids aged out of foster care — if they do not find a foster family by age 18, they are emancipated from the foster care system
- Kids who age out of foster care are less likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college than the average population. By age 26, around 80% of kids who aged out of the foster system earned at least a high school degree or GED compared to 94% in the general population.
- By age 26, 4% of kids who aged out of foster care earned a college degree, while 36% in the general population had earned a degree.
- An average of 1 out of every 4 kids in foster care will become homeless within 4 years of aging out of foster care
This is the reality of many kids in the foster care system. They age out without finding a home because the older they get, the harder it is to find a foster home who will take them in.
Thomas, an Oklahoma teen, is one of those kids experiencing this.
Thomas has been in foster care for years, and his 18th birthday is less than one year away-February 2022. He has been searching for a permanent home for at least six years, and even though he has been in homes before, they haven’t turned out to be a forever fit.
His Department of Human Services (DHS) caseworkers explain that he has matured a lot – he has continued to work on himself in hopes of being accepted into a loving family and adopted.
Thomas has been reflecting on his past actions and improving himself hoping to find a forever home; Thomas said, “some of that is my fault. I didn’t behave as much as I should but I really want to work toward a home because I feel I can really do it this time.”
He worked on manners, found refuge in the church and stronger faith through a relationship with God, and he is owning up to his mistakes and learning from them.
Teens Deserved to be Adopted Too!
Families are often hesitant to foster or adopt a teen; the teens’ foster care records are long and they have a long history within the system. This can seem daunting, which is why many people opt for younger children. While fostering or adopting teens can be more difficult than fostering/adopting young kids, it is possible to work through the traumas and struggles present in their lives. Thomas is willing to do whatever it takes and will work with a family to find a home before he turns 18.
Jake Funderburk, an agent for DHS who works with Thomas, said: “Thomas needs a chance, he really does.”
Like many others nearing the age of 18, Thomas is a teen looking for love and a family before he has to be completely on his own. It is a scary time and they are just looking for kindness and guidance through the next chapter of their lives.
We believe that everyone deserves a chance and we hope that Thomas can find a wonderful, loving home before he turns 18.
If you are looking to adopt a child or teen, check out our adoption calculator.