Although many people misunderstand them, negatively stereotype them, underestimate them, and are even a bit afraid of them, I love working with teens. Teens are not just our future – they are our present. I believe that we all have an obligation to prepare a better world for them to inherit and also to adequately prepare them to be world changers.
As we continue to highlight the great work of various agencies, individuals, and publications throughout National Foster Care Month, today I want to send a very special THANK YOU to all the foster parents stepping in to bring positive changes to so many lives. Happy Foster Care Month!! YOU ROCK!! (Oh, and by the way, I do realize that society negatively stereotypes foster parents as well).
Every state in the United States has children and teens in the foster care system. These young people belong to all of us. May is National Foster Care Month. Let’s show that we care.
National Foster Care Month Core Messages:
Today is the day. May 1st marks the beginning of National Foster Care Month. This entire month is dedicated to showcasing that each of us can play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.
National Foster Care Month also provides an opportunity for acknowledging the thousands of dedicated foster families and other caring individuals and organizations who are already supporting youth in foster care. We can never publicly recognize all the agencies supporting these young people. We will highlight various agencies throughout National Foster Care Month.
Dictionary.com defines a mentor as a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. During National Mentoring Month, I want to offer to you that your life is either a cautionary tale or a positive example. With that being said, you can be a role model or a mentor to someone you may not know personally based on how you live your life. Your legacy is being created by your personal and professional connections, the integrity with which you work or serve, the strangers you encounter throughout the day, and the blueprint that is being developed by your social media presence.
The reasons listed above are some of the main reasons that young people look up to celebrities. I believe that the main reason they look up to celebrities is that celebrities are everywhere – we are bombarded with their thoughts and actions. This over saturation is the reason that I created SPOTLIGHT Teen of the Month. SPOTLIGHT Teen of the Month is A Positive Alternative To Hollywood Celebrity Worship. We showcase youth in foster care that are not being defined by their past or their struggles. We are eliminating negative stereotypes of teens in foster care by celebrating young people who are making a positive impact in the lives of the people in their inner circle and in their communities. Please take some time this month to create new online mentors by nominating outstanding teens for SPOTLIGHT Teen of the Month.
Years ago I worked in a transitional living program for young adults 18-21 years old. The “residents” included teen mothers and a few young people who were in the foster care system. The teen moms shared a room with their children and all other residents shared one bedroom apartments. Each person was required to seek employment and deposit a portion of their income in a savings account. The savings were returned to assist with a security deposit or rent at new place at the end of the resident’s 18 month stay. Motivated, young people who presented themselves well were admitted to the program. Many others were turned away. This is common practice and not unique to this one agency. Young adults with serious mental health issues or criminal histories were not allowed – in order to keep the residences as safe as possible and “encourage” high success rates.
The results of a poll conducted by the consulting firm Twentysomething, Inc. states that roughly 85% of recent college graduates planned to return to their parent’s home. “Boomerang kids” as they are now known are adults who left home for education or work and due their inability to find well-paying jobs have had to return to their safety nest. According to a Pew Research Center report released in March, as many as 3 in 10 young adults have become “boomerang kids”. The unemployment rates for adults under age 25 are as high as 54%. Nearly 53 percent of 18- to 24-year olds have never moved out or returned home.
Teenagers ages 16-19 face tough job competition from adults. For nearly two years, the national average unemployment rate for teens has remained above 20 percent – a postwar record. According to data from the Labor Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for teenagers 16 to 19 years old was 24.9 percent in April. That is a substantial increase from the 12 to 14 percent rate in 2000.
Chris Nixon has resided in the home of Dorothy Cordero for the past six years. They were referred to me through KidsPeace, a private charity dedicated to serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children, families and communities. I interviewed them together for The Teen Toolbox National Foster Care Awareness blog series on teen males in the foster care system. Because both of Chris and Dorothy had such great insight and were hopeful their story would help other families, I will share their stories separately.
Chris will age out of foster care when he turns 21 years old this June. He decided to remain in care after age 18 so that he could receive continued support while working and attending college. As I was sharing my purpose for dedicating our May blogs to teen males (and possibly preparing to share statistics) Chris unexpectedly shared with me that “youth who exit the system at age 18 are at higher risk of ending up homeless, in jail, or much worse.” Obviously, Chris is very driven and did not come to the decision to remain in care without careful consideration. He believes that choosing to stay in foster care instead of exiting the system at 21 allows youth extra time to achieve the goals that they otherwise might not be able to achieve.