The holidays always heighten my sense of family. The days are darker earlier and there is more time to sit beside the fire and snuggle and talk before my kids trail off to bed. Lately I have had long talks with my oldest daughter about what major she will choose when she attends NYU (I know! She’s ten!). Humorous and serious, these talks leave me so grateful that we have each other. But in these moments my mind often considers children in foster care who do not have the luxury of family (or dreaming about the future with a mom) during this season. Many children are left feeling alone, unsupported, and desperate.
Did you know that 45-50% of youth leaving foster care today will become homeless within a year? With no long term support, or community around them, they leave the system with little to no ability to sustain themselves. Adopting older kids is not something always on my radar, however I feel that of late I am thinking more about kids leaving the system empty handed and without the support they need to make it in life.
Teens who were not adopted and who are leaving the system can still have meaningful connections with mentors and families who choose to partner with them. Success Beyond 18 has an infographic that helps explain the great need in coming alongside those aging out of foster care – for their future and for ours. Helping them succeed will benefit everyone.
During this season of Advent one of our family’s giving opportunities will be to give a small care gift to a youth in transition out of foster care. Impact NW’s Idependent Living Program is aiding youth in my area during their transition. There are so many ‘small’ things that you may do or provide for your children that you could also do for these teens. Contact a local agency in your area to see how you might provide partnership.
In the midst of thinking through all of this last week, a good friend sent me this video. It is her high school teacher, Joe Toles, and his three sons, all of whom were adopted as teens. It is a beautiful picture of adoption; of the weaving together of lives and the creation of family. Joe, who himself aged out of the foster care system, understands the risks and challenges associated with leaving the system without a support network in place. Through older child adoption, Joe Toles has given his sons “a true sense of family.”
Video from You Gotta Believe
I encourage you to consider how you might aid a transitioning teen in your area.
May this season encourage us to go beyond what we might normally offer in order to support the greater community around us.
It’s great to know that there are organisations doing something to support those ageing out of foster care. The age limit for leaving foster care in England has just been raised to 21 – vital, I think, for giving young people the best chance.