Aging out of foster care was both an exciting and terrifying time for me.
Here is my advice to all foster parents, to help save your foster child a lot of worries in the future when they’re aging out of foster care.
Aging Out of Foster Care ~
5 Important Lessons for Foster Children
I was 14 when I entered the foster care system, and unlike many children, parental rights were 100% ended within 4 months. My case showed no chance of reuniting me with my parents or family.
- I left the system at 19, providing 5 years to teach me important lessons before aging out of foster care.
- The things I wasn’t taught are the same things many other foster children aren’t prepared for.
- By knowing where foster care failed me, you can work towards preparing the children in your care.
All children deserve to be prepared for adulthood. You could provide the memories foster children need when they grow up and actually have to deal with issues after aging out of foster care.
To get you started, here’s 5 important lessons for foster children:
- Understanding politics
- Resumes and interviews
- How to access public assistance after aging out of foster care
- Buying or renting a home/Credit after aging out of foster care
Why did I choose these topics?
1. Understanding Politics
To me, understanding politics before aging out of foster care is a very important lesson. I think all children should be taught to learn how important politics are in this world.
Kids should be taught about voting, political debates, impacts of voting, and how to learn about each nominee. A good way to help with this is to discuss funding for foster care in an easier childlike way.
Example: If enough politicians vote yes to giving more money to foster care, you could get a larger allowance for clothes; but if most politicians vote against it you won’t get any extra.
Politics are an important part of life. Teach children in your care how to make informed decisions for themselves. Encourage them to follow political debates. This is not a time to convert them to your political beliefs, but instead teach them how to form their own beliefs in order to figure out the things that are important to them.
2. Resumes and Interviews
I got my first job when I was 15 in foster care. No one told me how to interview. No one told me that the older I got I would need a resume.
- Teach children how to form a resume off the experience they have.
- Let them make rough draft resumes on your computer.
- To prepare them for interviews do role play.
- Show them the attitude they should have when interviewing.
There are many online programs that will help a teen prepare for the work force. This is an important thing to teach considering how many foster children become homeless or jobless.
3. How to Access Public Assistance After Aging Out of Foster Care
Yes, I mean teach the children about welfare.
- An estimated 50% of aged out previous foster children are unemployed, and if someone is unemployed chances are they will need public assistance.
- It is estimated that of former foster children who are working, 70% make less than $25,000 annually.
So please teach your late teen foster children how they can sign up. Teach them:
- the location of the local office
- what paper work they will need (such as ID or proof of residence or Social Security cards.)
- food stamps
- housing assistance
- job training programs.
If you don’t understand these things, check with your local Social Services. They often have booklets that can be helpful for you and your teen foster child.
Encourage children in your care to pursue college, plan a career, find a job etc, but make sure they understand they don’t have to feel bad about seeking help if they need it. These programs are for people in need. So if they are ever in need after aging out of foster care, they should feel comfortable getting that help.
4. Buying or Renting a Home/Credit After Aging Out of Foster Care
Imagine aging out of the foster care system with nowhere to go. That is a scary thing!
Children have no understanding of:
- building credit
- passing a credit check for a rental contract
- credit cards
- interest rates
- home contracts.
These are some of the most important parts of life as an adult.
- Enroll teenagers in your care in some online easy classes to help them understand how to build their credit.
- Teach them how to avoid predatory lending such as title loans, payday loans, and high interest short term loans.
- Explain how a contract works, and that once they sign it they can’t back out of it.
Without these important lessons, their credit is going to be ruined very soon after exiting foster care.
It took me a while to master the holidays on my own.
- What do guys want on Valentines Day?
- How do I make a Jack o Lantern?
- Where do I buy Christmas trees?
- What do I bring if I am invited to join a holiday celebration?
A teenager isn’t going to give these things much thought, until of course, after aging out of foster care and having their first holidays on their own. If they have no family they might feel bad because they don’t know how to prepare for holidays. So casually bring up holidays in conversation.
When holidays happen, involve your foster child in:
- picking out a Christmas tree
- cooking holiday meals
- decorating the house
- other important holiday events.
Teaching Lessons to Kids Before Aging Out of Foster Care
Yes, yes I know that getting this ALL in isn’t easy. (Does any one foster parent have the time or ability to teach all of their foster children these things? Well maybe a couple do, but most don’t.)
The key is:
- Keep lessons simple.
- Work information in where you can.
- Speak comfortably and naturally.
- Don’t force kids to participate; encourage them.
Any life skills you can provide to foster kids before aging out of foster care will be useful to them in the future. They might not immediately see the value of these five important lessons, for foster children often lack the ability to plan for the future, but in years to come they’ll be pleased to fall back on those memories.