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Steep Challenges Face Colorado Foster Youth Transitioning to Adulthood

Compared with their peers, youths in foster care are more likely to experience early pregnancy, homelessness and incarceration. (USAF)
Compared with their peers, youths in foster care are more likely to experience early pregnancy, homelessness and incarceration. (USAF)
November 15, 2018

DENVER – Young people in foster care are falling behind their peers and are on track to face higher levels of joblessness and homelessness as adults, according to a new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Leslie Gross, director of the Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, says in addition to the trauma of abuse or neglect that resulted in being removed from their homes and placed in foster care, experiences while in foster care, including frequent moves, can lead to worse outcomes for youths.

"We really need better policies that promote permanency,” she stresses. “We need to ensure that young people are growing up in families, and this really means supporting biological families so that young people can stay at home – and, if they have to be in care, policies that support young people as well as foster families who are willing to care for older youths."

Gross notes that African American youths in Colorado are three times more likely to be in foster care than their white counterparts, are more likely to have three or more placements and are more likely to transition out of care without a permanent family.

Gross adds that as young people leave the system and set out on their own, they still need supportive adults they can rely on to help them get on a path to financial and emotional stability.

"It's just really challenging to turn 18 – or even 21, in some places – and all of a sudden be left with nobody to rely on,” she states. “Nobody to support you in those things like finishing high school or applying to college, not having a job or necessarily a place to live. So it kind of is that feeling of falling off a cliff."

Colorado's foster care population is on par with peers when it comes to graduating from high school or getting a GED, but foster care youth are falling behind when it comes to securing employment and stable housing.

Colorado currently invests above the national average in vocational training for foster youths, but spends half as much on financial assistance for education costs and just 25 percent as much on room and board.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO