Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Building is on Fire!

Grim news for kids aging out of Foster Care. A recent study (Youth Today's most recent issue) of 600 midwestern foster care alumni who were tracked beginning at age 17, and who are now 23, showed the following results:

1. 94% did not have even a two-year college diploma.
2. Over 1/2 were unemployed.
3. Eight in ten males had been arrested at least once.
4. 2/3 of the young women had at least one child.
5. 44% of males were responsible for parenting a child.
6. 1/4 had been homeless at least one time.
7. Over 1/2 had serious, untreated mental health issues.

Geez....where do I begin? We have been hearing similar statistics in the youth services field for years, so the results of this study are no surprise to me. What continues to surprise me, however, is how totally unresponsive government and the private sector continue to be regarding the plight of these kids. It truly baffles my mind on a daily basis how we think we can really end homelessness without attending to these kids. How many different ways do you have to say, "FIRE!" before people finally start to leave the building?! These kids are burning right before our very eyes, and we just continue to sit around and pretend they don't exist. Will SOMEONE please explain that to me????

My last blog post had a long list of "what needs to happen to solve this problem", so I won't go into that again. What I will say again is that these are kids who were supposed to be taken care of by the state, who were removed from their homes through no fault of their own, who were bounced around their entire lives, who were caught in the unbelievable web of bureaucracy that is government, and then who were flung from the web and told to fly......but given no wings with which to do it. It makes my head explode.

How can we as a nation be so uncaring? How can we continue to allow our legislatures to cut critically needed services for these kids, or even worse, ignore the fact that services like transitional living programs are so desperately needed?

Sometime I'd like to do an informal study. I'd like to sit a group of people down and show them various slides of animals, babies, children, teens, and young adults......all of whom needed rescuing from some type of abusive or life-threatening situation. I would bet my house that teens and young adults would be the LEAST chosen group to be saved. We care more about puppies than we do these kids!

Until we face THAT reality, the reality that as a whole, we just don't really like teens, especially those who look weird or scary or angry; or at the least, we just don't think about them at all when we think of groups that need help; until we face that and the fact that even though we may not like them, they still need our help; and the reality that up to 48% of chronically homeless adults have history in the foster care system (if you don't like them as teens, wait til you get to deal with them as chronically substance abusing, mentally ill adults!), I guess we'll just keep pretending the building is not really on fire.,

As for me, I'm leaving the building! I hope some of you will come with me.

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