National Foster Care Week: what happens to kids that age out of foster care?

May 17, 2013

We've already acknowledged the proliferation of different days and weeks, whether by official proclamation or organizational mandate, declared for raising awareness of various social issues. But let's talk about just one more: National Foster Care Month. While it's likely meant to raise awareness about kids who need foster care and people willing to serve as foster parents, kids who age out of the foster care system caught our attention. 

Michigan foster care rates by year
Credit Kids Count Data Center / Annie E. Casey Foundation

There are more than 17,000 children in Michigan's foster care system, according to the Michigan Children's Defense Fund. Kids who reach 18 while in the foster care system have fewer resources available to them. The means to obtain costly health insurance, savings toward the astronomical costs of higher education, and disruptions in their progress through high school mean extra challenges.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange's visual arts blog features an online exhibit, "Aging Out: the Lives of Former Foster Kids." Kids who are already on unsteady ground, perhaps only recently feeling stable in foster care, experience an even more dramatic change when they turn 18. One of the young people featured in the exhibit says, "I don't think anything can prepare you for what happens when you age out."

Dmitriy's adoptive mother took him to a Russian barber when he arrived in America and he still visits him for haircuts.
Credit Heather Walsh / Exhibit originally hosted by the Long Island Children’s Museum

Hoping to prepare Michigan's young people better, in 2011, the State signed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. By receiving matching federal funds, the law allows the State to extend benefits to 18-20 year olds . Two funds available include the transitional Medicaid and funds for educational and vocational training. 

If you know a young person transitioning out of the foster care system, make sure they know about financial resources, health care, and support available to them through the Foster Youth in Transition website