Adult foster care program helps young adults prepare for independence :: WRAL.com
This article was written for our sponsor, ChildrenPeace.
For many young adults, turning 18 is a milestone birthday to look forward to. It’s a time when youngsters are flying into the nest and eagerly heading towards independence, whether they are applying to college or preparing for their first full-time job.
However, foster children who are on the verge of “breaking out of the system” often see this milestone anniversary as a troubling time of the unknowns and the unpredictable.
“When I had that big birthday at 18, I could go out and live on my own and try. But if I failed, I had a place to return to. That’s the difference for a foster child who ages outside the system. Danica Manning said. Manning is a therapeutic foster parent with KidsPeace, a private charitable organization that serves the behavioral and mental health needs of children, families and communities.
Each year, around 20,000 young people are no longer placed in foster care without family support or family ties. Within 18 months of emancipation, it is estimated that about half of these young people become homeless. In addition, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty estimates 5,000 unaccompanied young people die each year as a result of suicide, assault or illness.
A scientific article published in the Child and Youth Services Review The newspaper said: “When young people in foster care turn 18 – or, in some states, 21 – they lose access to the financial, educational and social supports provided by the child protection system. These youth fare poorly relative to their peers in young adult fields, including mental health issues, addictions and underemployment. “
In Manning’s view, this is why adult foster care programs, like the one offered by KidsPeace, are so important. This intake program, aimed at young people aged 18 to 21, aims to support young adults during a critical period of their development and is designed to help them achieve better results.
Program participants receive a monthly stipend and must keep their job or be in school. KidsPeace workers check participants once every two weeks to make sure they are on track with their goals and to provide mental health support.
“They get a stipend every month and start learning how to budget and open a checking account. It seems obvious, but when you have kids who haven’t learned these things, there are some things that they don’t. don’t know, ”said Manning, who is currently fostering an 18-year-old. She helps him with his independent living plan after high school and helps him learn things like planning meals for the week and l ‘grocery.
Manning’s work as a licensed clinical social worker and her husband’s work as a pastor helped them prepare to become foster parents. Both had previously worked with teenagers before becoming foster parents in 2018 and the couple wanted to continue working with this age group, knowing that teenagers are more difficult to place in foster homes.
“We have always had a passion for young people in foster care and have always wanted to help. When it comes to adult foster care, the most difficult group to place is teenagers, ”Manning said. “With my clinical experience and my husband’s pastoral experience, we really enjoy working with adolescents. It helped us a lot and it worked well.
Parenting a young adult can be tricky, but the Mannings implemented different rules for their 18-year-old than their younger children, and made it clear that this was their home forever provided it ‘he is at school or working. . The Manninges are constantly working with their adopted son to “make sure his life is moving in a positive direction and consistently give him freedoms.”
Jessica Tomlinson, who is also KidsPeace’s therapeutic foster parent, welcomed her adopted son to her home when he was in grade 11.
After graduating from high school, he entered the adult foster care program and went to college, but found himself struggling there and made the transition to an independent life instead. He now works full time and trains part time with his former adoptive father, Tomlinson’s husband, Ben, whom he calls “daddy”.
“He’s here having dinner every Sunday, watching me and texting me,” laughs Tomlinson.
In addition to their former adopted son, who is still part of their family, the Tomlinsons have their own biological children, a former adopted child who is now an adult but has mental health needs, and a goddaughter they have welcomed. their house. Tomlinson said she grew up in the ‘it takes a village’ generation and although she grew up an only child, her home was where everyone was welcome.
Later in life his two parents, now estranged but still best friends, would each become foster parents and Tomlinson looks to their examples for inspiration. Her stepfather and stepmother are also foster parents. Simply put, the Tomlinsons are integrated into the host community. However, they’ve had their fair share of ups and downs over the years, and promoting an adult is a special type of challenge in and of itself.
“Caring for young adults is totally different from caring for a child. I would say about 80% of the children who have left my home and taken out of the foster care system, of those I stay in touch with, struggle with mental health, homelessness and budgeting, ”he said. admitted Tomlinson.
According to data compiled by the National Institute for Host Youth, less than 3 percent of children who age outside of foster care graduate from college, and 25 percent suffer from PTSD. Over 40 percent of children who reach the age of 18 in foster care have remained in the system for more than three years.
Tomlinson mentioned that with teens or young adults it can be more difficult for them to see you as an authoritative figure. When children are placed with foster parents in their late teens, it is often more difficult to build a foundation of trust than younger children, as they generally have gone through more transition. Added to this is the fact that young adults fear being alone for the first time.
“My adopted son, when he was 21 he was going through a crisis because he knew his time [in the foster care program] was ending. He didn’t feel ready. His anxiety was heightened, “said Tomlinson.” Personally, I think these programs should be extended to 25 years, because at that point you are just giving them life. “
“As far as our young people in foster care are concerned, we hope the therapy gives them what they need, but you can’t go faster than where they are emotionally. You want to make sure that you assign responsibilities and freedoms which They can successfully master. This is why this cut of 21 is so unreasonable. They can be 21 physically, but be 15 emotionally, ”she said. “There is a problem that a number equates to a certain level of maturity. This program gives these children more time to do things right while having supports in place that can protect them and keep them a bit safe. Longer.”
Manning said she is often complimented on “the way she provides” so much to her children, but thinks the reverse is true.
“It is absolutely a vocation. Our children have been able to teach us so much about the life, love and resilience of the human spirit, ”she said. “Seeing them bounce back from hardship, watching them do something they thought they couldn’t do, and witnessing that conversion on their part by calling you mister and madam to mommy and daddy. Watch them realize it. there is hope for them and that they can live normal and regular lives. It is a sacrifice, it is not easy, but it is beautiful, inspiring and very fulfilling. ”
This article was written for our sponsor, ChildrenPeace.