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Report: Instability Hurts Trajectories of MT Foster Children

Montana youths who have been in the foster care system can struggle to find a place to live, with only 48 percent reporting stable housing by age 21. (Andres Rodriguez/Flickr)
Montana youths who have been in the foster care system can struggle to find a place to live, with only 48 percent reporting stable housing by age 21. (Andres Rodriguez/Flickr)
November 15, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – New research highlights the instability young people in foster care face in Montana, and the barriers this can create as they transition into adulthood.

A report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that moving in and out of foster care placements, unstable placement settings, and leaving the system without finding a permanent family can create barriers to well-being.

Jazmyn Saunders, a youth leader with the organization FosterClub, has been in and out of the system since she was young. Now, she's a student at the University of Montana.

She says all children need stability no matter how they grow up.

"It affects their trust issues with people in their life,” she points out. “It affects how well they do in school, before and after they age out. It creates a lot of habits that kids who age out of the system who didn't have a lot of stability usually lack."

In the Treasure State, 14 percent of children in the foster care system are 14 or older.

By age 21, 48 percent of foster care youths in Montana have full or part-time employment, compared with 66 percent of the general teen population.

When it comes to a place to stay, 48 percent have stable housing, compared with 70 percent overall.

Leslie Gross is director of the Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, which works specifically to improve outcomes for foster youths ages 14-plus.

She says stability is the key to ensuring young people are better off later in life.

"The one thing that I hear repeatedly from all of the young people around the country that we work with is that they need someone to rely on, no matter what,” she states. “Young people need permanent adult connections. We really have to do better."

Saunders says foster children may struggle more than other children but probably make up one of the most resilient populations in the country. They just need the proper support.

"We need one person to believe in us to get going, and I'm fortunate,” she states. “I have tons of people who believe in me, but some kids don't, and I believe that one person is all it takes to get a kid going."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT