How did you celebrate the birthday of The United States of America? Cookout? Parade? Did your Independence Day festivities end with a spectacular fireworks show? Independence Day for many teens in the foster care system comes on their 18th or 21st birthday. Last year on my daughter’s 18th birthday there was a major, unexpected east coast earthquake. My daughter felt the earth shake even though she was four hours away from the center of the quake. It is a frightening birthday she will never forget. I’m sure that the 18th or 21st birthday of a young person who leaves foster care without a permanent family connection is also a frightening day they will never forget. This Independence Day can be just as earth shattering. Because the calendar changes the young person becomes completely independent. I’m not speaking about independent in the sense that they are finally “legal” as many young people describe it, but independent as in their housing, medical assistance, and other needed services come to an abrupt end and they are forced to rely on themselves – whether they are ready or not. There are things you can do to help youth who are aging out of foster care have a successful future – donate to an organization that assists teens in foster care, become a mentor, become a tutor, provide a job, or adopt.
July 5, 2012