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Youth who leave the foster care system at age 18 form a special group in our society. These young adults have had difficult childhood experiences and many find the challenge of independence daunting.
One thing that might help both of you prepare for the future is having a transition plan in place. Here are some things you can do to help youth transitioning to adulthood:
Advocate for government agencies
and local communities to expand services to these adolescents and support a move for extending foster care until 21 years of age.
Begin teaching your children in foster care
from an early age about caring for themselves.
- Teach them about cleaning, cooking, and caring for their clothes.
- Teach them how to shop for groceries, clothes, and household items.
- Talk about house and car maintenance.
- Set up a bank account for them and teach them about money, how to save, how to use a checkbook, and how to invest.
- Talk about insurance, payments, and using a bank.
- Help them navigate the world of dental, medical and mental health care.
- Teach them to make and keep appointments and how to manage the necessary follow-up.
Talk about the importance of education and what is needed for different kinds of work. Talk about college placement tests; encourage them to go to technical college and four-year college fairs to learn about careers. Talk about your own work.
Make sure youth know about community resources and how to access them.
Help youth maintain a life book with legal, birth and family history facts, dates, and information. Have them include important documents such as their birth certificate and social security card.
Few of us turned 18 and negotiated adulthood alone without much trial and many errors—and most of us didn’t have the added hurdles that our youth in care have had.
Most of all, be available if you can. Help the youth identify adults whom they trust and teach them how to maintain that relationship.