Over 23,000 children age out of foster care each year, but many struggle to adapt to independent living as an adult. As part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, 25 states now offer extended foster care, and help such as financial support for young adults in work or participating in education programs. This and other schemes go some way to helping them get a good start in their adult life, but a more personal touch is also very important. As a foster parent you will most likely already have faced many transitional phases with your foster children, and, at each stage, supported them to ensure a smooth changeover. Now, whether you have stayed in touch with former foster children who are becoming adults, or you are saying goodbye to your current foster child as they leave for college, your continuing help and advice is still invaluable.
Graduating to Independence
Encouragement to stay in school and gain a high school diploma is perhaps one of the most important gifts you can give your foster children. Although only 58% of foster children graduate high school, those who continue to receive support as they become independent are twice as likely to finish at least one year of college by the time they reach 21. Leaving for college can be daunting for any young adult, so if you can offer advice and emotional support to your foster children at this challenging time, and throughout their education, it can help them stay positive and focused. Something as simple as a care package for when they move into their dorm can ease the transition to living on their own and help them settle in. Once they have finished their studies, their job options are broadened and they are more likely to find somewhere to live independently and support themselves successfully. However, they may still need help managing their finances for the first time and adjusting to their new life, and will be pleased to know that you are still there for them.
Many foster children often have low expectations, however, those who have mentors to guide and advise them tend to attain higher levels of economic and social success. By remaining a part of their lives as a positive role model, you can offer advice on a range of topics from interview techniques to asking someone out. As your foster children move on in life, recognizing milestones such as graduation and landing a first job can help nurture a sense of achievement, so building confidence and self-esteem. A celebratory meal or hosting a party will mark each occasion, consolidate their success and help them believe in themselves.
If you have fostered a child until they leave home, or been able to keep in touch with former foster children, just like any parent you will want to see them do well in life. With your continuing support and advice, they are more likely to attain their goals, and you can then enjoy celebrating their achievements together.