EUGENE, Ore. — Fall is here and schools are officially in full swing. While many students only have to worry about moving on to the next level of education, for some the transition is a lot more than what classes to take on next.
According to the 2011 numbers by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, more than 400,000 kids are in foster care. Other studies estimate that each year, about 20,000 young people are forced to “age out” of the system. While many are 18 years old, they still need support and services.
“I just started with the Independent Living Program (ILP) and aging out. It was a struggle and I’m not gonna lie, I’m still terrified. I’m 21 and I’m just learning how to start a solid savings account,” said transitioning foster youth, Patrick Kindred.
His experience is more common than most in foster care realize.
“The reason why the Independent Living Program was created was because of the statistics and how youth were transitioning out at age 18 into homelessness and into lack of education,” said Andrea Hansen-Miller, Independent Living Program Supervisor with Looking Glass Youth and Family Services.
While 70% of those aging out plan on attending college, only about 3% will attain a 2 or 4 year degree compared to 28% in the general population.
“They’re young people from our community just like other youth, they just happen to have gone through some circumstances that brought them into the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) care. However, they still have the hopes and dreams and goals of many of the youth out there,” said Rosemary Iavendeitti, DHS ILP Coordinator.
They just need a little extra help to achieve them. Kindred has been in and out of foster care since the age of four and said the lack of stability and support is an issue.
“To me it felt like they just had it inside of them. They didn’t really worry about going to college. They knew they were going to college and I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know how I could get there,” said Kindred.
Now, Kindred and his fellow foster alums are working to make a difference by sharing their stories with others in workshops to make sure those like them won’t go unnoticed. They are also speaking out to government leaders about the need for their attention. It’s things like this that Kindred and his supporters say will effect real change.
“I think it’s important to have these conversations to open their minds and educate them and help them help us so that we can help society,” said Kindred.
Patrick attended a conference this past summer with the Oregon Foster Youth Connection. They’re currently working on a Foster Youth Bill of Rights to present during this legislative session.
For more information on those recommendations, click here.