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Path to Adulthood Paved with Obstacles for Foster Youth

Leaving foster care without finding a permanent family can create barriers to a young adult's well-being. (Pexels/Pixabay)
Leaving foster care without finding a permanent family can create barriers to a young adult's well-being. (Pexels/Pixabay)
November 13, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio — New research uncovers the instability faced by Ohio youth in foster care, and the resulting negative outcomes experienced during their transition to adulthood.

Fostering Youth Transitions, a data brief released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, showed that moving in and out of foster care placements, unstable placement settings, and leaving foster care without finding a permanent family can create barriers to well-being for young people. Brandi Slaughter, chief executive with Voices for Ohio's Children, said that includes difficulties securing education, employment and housing.

"Foster care, it had been practiced, at 18 years old you're sent off with your trash bag and said, 'Good luck,’” Slaughter said. “Without having some additional guidance, someone to help you navigate the transition to adulthood, the outcomes for years have been negative."

According to the data, 43 percent of Ohio foster youths obtain a high school diploma or GED, compared with 76 percent nationally. And about half of the U.S. foster-care population is employed, while in Ohio it's only 36 percent.

Leslie Gross is director of the foundation's Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, which works specifically to improve outcomes for foster youth ages 14 and over. She said better data, policies and practices can give foster youth their best shot at life.

"All young people regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code deserve the relationships, resources and opportunities to ensure their well-being and success,” Gross said. “And so we know that we must work with communities and other stakeholders to change what is happening for youth of color."

Slaughter noted the data is the first of its kind, and she's hopeful it will spark a conversation about the need to advance policies and practices that can give foster youths their best shot at life.

"So we appreciate Annie E. Casey and their efforts to release this,” Slaughter said. “And we hope that as we continue to collect this data, the data itself will improve and then the policies that we make in response to the data can also improve."

She added that Ohio has made investments in the BRIDGES Program, which provides guidance and support for young adults up to age 21 aging out of foster care as they transition to adulthood.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH