Life is a series of expectations, milestones, and numbers. It can be quite the balancing act, even in stable circumstances. People are expected to follow a certain timeline when it comes to learning how to drive, finding a job, graduating, and getting housing. However, living can become more complicated and difficult, particularly in times of change or trouble. Automatically assuming identical outcomes for everyone based on best-case scenarios isn’t always helpful to those in less-than-ideal situations.
A publication from the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences presents statistics that show a troubling reality for many foster care youth in transition. Many youth who age out of the foster care system run into several problems during their move into emerging adulthood, and they often lack the necessary preparation to navigate independent living. These issues, such as inadequate income, lack of affordable housing, rental discrimination, foreclosure, lack of education, domestic violence, child abuse, death of a loved one, and limited access to mental health support and medical care, increase the risk of youth homelessness. This article looks at the foster care emancipation process, risk factors, and consequences of youth homelessness. Some of these negative impacts include but are not limited to poor mental health, substance abuse, criminal activity, trafficking, failure to graduate high school, and persistent unemployment. Low graduation rates and low job attainment can also contribute to higher incidence of incarceration.
The publication also lists additional resources and programs that are in place to address youth homelessness. It discusses protective factors, important research-based interventions, policies, and advocacy for a sustainable aging-out process, and volunteer organizations that work with youth in foster care. Protective factors include connections with a caring adult, placement with a foster family member who serves as a caregiver in the foster care system, and a supportive and positive educational experience.