What Does “Aging Out” of Foster Care Mean?
Unfortunately, many children who enter foster care are not placed in a permanent home before they reach the maximum age to receive state assistance. Traditionally, young people still in foster care at age 18 undergo emancipation, or the “aging out” process. However, modern programs are available to extend foster care and provide young adults with the resources to transition more securely.
Still, emancipation impacts all young adults growing up in foster care, whether they have outside help and support to lean on or are left to face the transition alone. Regardless of their situation, aging out of foster care affects young adults in several ways.
In this article, we’re diving deep into what it means to age out of foster care, what challenges it can present to young adults leaving foster care, and what services are available to assist further those in the foster care system in Georgia.
Youth Can Age Out of Foster Care Between the Ages of 18 and 21
Young citizens in the US are considered adults once they reach their 18th birthday. However, most people do not yet have the skills or resources to become financially self-sufficient by this time. While youth can transition out of foster care and begin facing adulthood alone at 18, government programs are available for individuals up to 21 years of age that continue helping these young people as they prepare for their next phase of life.
Challenges of Emancipation at 18
Young adults who leave foster care at 18 experience more hardship as emancipation removes their access to beneficial services and support–housing, financial support from foster families, therapy, etc.
Statistically, those who are emancipated in their late teens are at a much higher risk of experiencing:
- Failed educational pursuits
- Housing instability
- More severe mental, physical, and behavioral health complications
Former foster teens who age out of the system by 18 are also more likely to:
- Lose access to affordable healthcare
- Participate in criminal activity
- Become incarcerated
Under federal law, welfare agencies must assist minors in foster care with developing a personalized transition plan to help them avoid the devastating difficulties that arise when becoming an adult. Transition plans help identify and strengthen strategies in many areas of life, including:
- Employment or career development
- Finances and money management
- Health insurance
- Parenting and family planning
- Physical, mental, and dental health
Every foster child on the path toward emancipation must have an actionable transition plan in writing to help make the switch to self-sufficiency and independence smoother and more successful. Foster teens who leave at 18 must begin creating their transition plan with their case worker as early as 17, and the plan must be finalized during their Foster Care Exit Meeting, which should take place at least 90 days prior to their 18th birthday.
Extension of Foster Care for Youth Up to 21
To help young people avoid the pitfalls of emancipation and establish a stronger foundation before they leave foster care, states like Georgia offer several programs to extend foster care services beyond age 18 and remain accessible to youth up to the age of 21.
Georgia’s Extended Youth Support Services (EYSS) program is available to foster children through the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) if they meet the necessary criteria and sign the voluntary placement agreement.
Criteria for EYSS eligibility
Teens interested in utilizing EYSS must meet certain criterium, such as:
- Maintaining enrollment at an institution offering secondary education or a program that leads to an equivalent credential.
- Maintaining enrollment at an institution offering postsecondary or vocational degrees.
- Participating in a program or activity centered around career or job-skill development.
- Maintaining employment and working at least 120 hours per month.
- Maintaining employment and working 80 hours a month if they are also enrolled in a school or educational program or have a medical condition preventing them from working more than 80 hours each month.
- Being unable to fulfill any of the criteria above due to medical limitations.
Benefits of EYSS
EYSS allows eligible youth to receive services through the Independent Living Program (ILP). These services are designed to instill life skills and education to help make the transition into adulthood more manageable.
ILP services include:
- Educational Support
- Financial Assistance
- Life Skills Development and Training
- Social Support
Through ILP services, children aging out of foster care are in a better position to achieve independence, employment, financial stability, and more. The goal is not for the child to merely survive once they are out of the foster care system but to thrive long into adulthood.
According to a 2019 Child Trends study, youth who participated in programs like EYSS and received ILP services up to age 21 fared better than those who left foster care at 18. The study discovered that young people who received extended care are more likely to:
- Maintain employment
- Pursue education
- Receive educational aid
- Maintain housing
- Avoid or delay parenthood
Aging out of foster care is difficult. You can help support a teen in foster care as they approach this milestone by becoming a foster parent through Generational Child Care.
Foster teens in Georgia need families to help nurture them and prepare them for what is to come when they become adults. Generational Child Care offers foster families the assistance, training, and support needed to help you help a young adult thrive. Contact us to learn more about the benefits of becoming a foster parent in Georgia: 478-477-1289