// you're reading...


Aging Out of Foster Care


In today’s society, there are a lot of children that live in foster care. Children are placed into foster care due to many factors. These include parents being deceased, parents not being able to take care of them the way they are supposed to and some children being abused. Some children either go home to their families while others are adopted. Children are able to stay in the system up until the age of 18. This means that once they become of age, they have to leave the system.  So what happens once they turn 18 and have to leave the system? The youth in foster care face many challenges and hardships as they move into adulthood. Roughly 20,000 youth in a given year age out of foster care and are on their own. They often have limited family ties or access to resources. They face hardships that include little to no education, no jobs, and housing, mental stability. These hardships can have a major impact on the youth once they leave the system. Some may have learning disabilities, limited life skills, and health, emotional, and behavioral problems that can exacerbate an already challenging transition.  Approximately 375,000 youth face adult challenges without a familiar support system.

What we don’t know is what happens to these children after they age out of the foster care system? What services and programs are provided for those who have aged out? As a team, we decided to study youth that have aged out and discover whether or not these youth know about the necessary resources that exist as well as if they know how to access them. There are many resources for young people aging out of the foster system, yet they are still having trouble transitioning because they don’t know that they exist or how to access them. Therefore we decided that our research question will be: What do young people know about resources for them?

Literature Review

Homelessness:  Numbers of homeless youth are the products of the foster care system (Lenz-Rashid, 2004). Many youth who aged out of foster care report being homeless at some point in time after discharge. Approximately 14% of males and 10% of females report being homeless at least once since their discharge from foster care services  these young adults who should be focused on establishing themselves as independent members of society, struggle with finding housing on their own. Many are forced on the street and/or to homeless shelters for a significant period, often persisting throughout their lifespan.

Employment and Training: Due to limited work histories and/or lackluster job training, many former foster children will face difficulty finding employment. Those who do obtain employment may be forced to work low-paying jobs, making them susceptible to exploitation, poverty, and increased difficulty establishing their independence (Lenz-Rashid, 2004). Poor job preparation and limited skills training place foster children at an unfair disadvantage when facing the job market. In a multi-state study of youth exiting the foster care system, three-fourths reported not getting any type of career counseling and over 50% reported no training in regards to job application or interviewing.

Physical, Mental and Health Care: Medicaid, coping mechanism, insurance, getting checkups (checking for diseases especially those who may be sexually active, health assessment) Medicaid, the publicly funded health insurance program for the low-income and disabled, was established in 1965 as a joint federal-state program for which states provide a match for federal dollars. Minimum standards including eligibility and benefits are established by the federal government, while the states administer the program. The CFCIP provided states the option to extend Medicaid coverage to youth ages 18 through 20 who have aged out of foster care. As of fall 2006, seventeen states have taken advantage of this provision (known as the “Chafee option”) to extend health coverage for youth until they turn 21. Five additional states are planning to implement the Chafee option, and the remaining 28 states and the District of Columbia offer Medicaid coverage to youth in foster care through other laws and provisions.

Basic Life Skills: Instruction on budgeting, using a credit card, parenting skills, housekeeping, food preparations. The Transitional Living Program provides residential services for homeless youth ages 16 -21 for up to 18 months, with an additional 180 days for youth who are younger than 18 years. The intent of this program is to help homeless youth transition into self-sufficiency. The program operators are required to provide youth with a safe and stable living arrangement and with services to help them to move into independence. Living arrangements may be agency-owned apartment buildings or scattered site apartments (single-occupancy apartments rented directly by young people with support from the agency). The Transitional Living Programs “also provide pregnant or parenting youth with parenting skills, including child development, family budgeting, health and nutrition, and other skills to promote their long-term economic independence. …”42 The focus of these services is to help youth build skills, develop leadership abilities, and become involved in their communities.

Education: GED preparation, vocational and post -secondary education. The linkage between employment and education for African American youth in foster care mirrors in many ways this linkage for all African American youth. A survey conducted of caseworkers in Illinois on their opinions about the needs of 416 randomly selected youth who were aging out of (or emancipating from) foster care found that “overall, African American youth were significantly more likely than youth of other races to be unemployed and have difficulties as the result of unemployment.”19 This same survey also found that urban African American youth were significantly more likely (22%) than non-urban African American youth (5%) to drop out of school.

Data Collection Methodology

The qualitative data collection method that we would be using is the interview method. We decided to use this type of method because our topic consisted of knowing what types of resources are available for those you transition out of the foster care system. Our interview would focus on what resources are made available in helping to accommodate their needs once they transition out. This type of method is appropriate because it would be best to hear firsthand from the individuals themselves than from someone else.

Reliability: To make sure that our data is reliable, we would make sure that we ask the youth to answer truthfully and honestly as possible to ensure our results are accurate for their benefits.

Ethical Consideration

Informed participation:

Before we perform anything, we must first make sure the children and parents are well informed of what our research would entail.  This consent form will outline what we would be doing within our research. Children have always been taken for granted and are often overlooked when asked questions. Some of them never have a voice in what they want or what they would like to say.  We would also make sure that the children are given the most respect because they are for one our future generations.

Voluntary participation:

The consent for that we would provide to them would be like a legal document whereby it would have a section of whether or not they would like to participate in the interview. This gives them the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to participate.

Confidentiality and anonymity:

In order for the participants to feel safe during our interview, we plan to keep their identities anonymous. We wouldn’t say their names before, during or after the interview. We would make sure that they are safe during the course of the interview process. We would however use the location of the organization just to have documented in our records.

Protection from harm:

Doing this study has no intentions on harming any participants that are involved. We will interview children (youth age), the directors at the organization with much needed discretion. We will respect them, their environment, staff, and organization.

Participation of Children:

In order for us to use the youth in our study, we would create some consent form that will entail some confidentiality points before we begin interviewing. As a team, we plan on going to the organization and speaking with the directors and personnel within the organization. They will be our gatekeepers. After speaking with the director of the organization, he or she will then inform their staff and associates of our interview to come. Anyone who desires to sign up will become our gatekeepers. These individuals will then give the youth a consent form outlining the details and information about the interview. It will highlight the confidentiality of our study so that they know that whatever is said in confidence will not leak into the outside world. We would explain to the directors, staff of the organization as well as the youth that the main purpose of our interview is to understand what type of resources in regards to housing accommodations are available once they age out of the foster care system.


We would not be biased and put our feelings into their feelings during the interview. Adults have a tendency to neglect the opinions of children and instead say what they themselves feel and not what the children feel. Whatever questions we may ask during this interview, we will reassure them that their responses will only be centered on what they tell us.

Data security:

In order to protect the safety and security of the data we collect from our participants, would make sure that our paper work is classified information and no one but the two of us will have access to the information.

Dissemination and use of research:

A lot of people that may read or be in our research may have the misunderstanding or misconception of our study. We will make sure that we explain what our research is and the purpose of our research. We will also explain what it entails and reassure the participants that they can be comfortable and safe with us during our research. Also, we will make our findings of this research to be understandable and clear as possible for those reading our research. Those people who have the intention on misusing our work or trying to patent our research as theirs, there will be a copyright disclaimer in our research.

Study Site

Our study site will be the organization we will be visiting. We would conduct our interview in the organization that we go to. We would be studying one organization within the five boroughs. We selected it purposefully so that we can understand the participants’ feelings and thoughts on the subject matter from different parts of the boroughs. We will gain access by asking the directors if we can use their private room for the interview. To gain access to this site, we would make some phone calls beforehand explaining to whomever is in charge our intentions of studying the organization.

Data Collecting Procedures: Interview

The roles of the interviewer and the child would be conceived by allowing the children (youth) to answer some questions we have devised based on our topic of interest. To recruit participants we would have already obtained consent forms that allows the youth to be aware of our research and its purpose. Recruiting would be based voluntarily on who wants to participate. We will be interviewing the youth in the organization as well as the staff and directors. The interview will be different because each group of people will have various questions pertaining to whom we are asking and what information we want to gather from them. So for instance, we would have questions intended for the youth to answer and questions intended for the directors and staff to answer. The interview will be both formal and semi-structured. We will have an outline of what we would ask them as well as the order in which we will ask. This interview will be one-on-one because I feel that each candidate will share personal feelings and thoughts and based on our confidentiality code of ethics, we wouldn’t want to break that. We want the participants to be able to express their thoughts comfortable and behind closed doors. We would record our observations either through audio/video recorder or paper and pencil. The interview will take approximately 10-15 mins to conduct with the participants we would be observing.

Data Analysis

Qualitative Data

As a group we will familiarize ourselves with the content in which we are studying, by over course looking in to the specific establishment that house foster care children. Our data will focus on Children in the foster care system in general as well as the resources provided to children. Our data may also lead us into how some children are not receiving all the necessary resources. We will have note label by topics, for example resources provided will go in the resources section and so on and so on.

The method that we would use to uncover patterns would be interviewing and/or surveying specific individuals at the establishment such as managers and supervisors. By doing an interview and/or survey we would be able to see patterns in the way the interviewee respond to the questions to be asked. We would also see if the interviewee within the establishment are following the same methods or plans that they say they provide. We will later go back to the research that we have done and compare the finding to come up with ways to fix any problems or address things that don’t mix up.

We would have a dated notebook/notepad with all of the findings. We would also organize things by importance, major and minor. Things that we feel are minor findings we would put in the minor section. Things we find that are major we put in the major section and so on and so on. Once we look a little closer at the finding we could come up with questions that especially point out what can be done so that all children aging out of the foster care system benefit for all the resources no matter what. When we analyze the data, we will use color codes to identify commons patterns, themes and etc. We will use charts and graphs to point out all important issues and fixable issues.

We will use code such as: foster care, resources, education and medical. These words will indicate the importance of each themes. They will also organize our findings as well as allow us to group certain categories that overlap each other. We will represent of data, by using graphs, charts and figures that will identify how and why some children do not receive the recourse. We will draw a connection as to why education and medical is as important for children in and aging out of the system.


The outcome of this studying will be to find out how all children aging out of the foster care system are able to gain knowledge of the resources that are offered to them.  It would be hard to find information on all five boroughs because possibly not every organization might be willing to allow us to interview some children within their organization.


We believe that protecting the children in foster care should be the main concern. It is very important that we address the mental health and needs of the young children within the system. The child’s need for a continual relationship and the need for responsive care should definitely be considered when placing children. Foster care can however with proper placement, provide a safe and nurturing environment that will encourage self-growth and self-achievement.

Skip to toolbar