Transitioning into adulthood is a challenge for any adolescent. For youth who have spent years in group or foster homes or who are “aging out” or exiting the foster care system without having secured a safe and permanent home, the risks are substantial. Unfortunately, upon leaving the dependency system, many young adults find themselves homeless or unemployed. And many will struggle with health issues or substance abuse problems.
A comprehensive study funded by the Conrad Hilton Foundation found that older youth in the care system are much more likely than younger children to remain there without ever finding a permanent home, and over 30 percent of children who entered the system above the age of 12 aged out—meaning they never find permanency. Subsequently, they are also more likely to endure multiple housing placements, leading to lost personal connections, a disruption of health services, and often, changes in schools. This upheaval is extremely detrimental to the youth’s academic and social development.
The passage of California Assembly Bill 12 (effective January 2012) extended foster care services and assistance to age 21, but in order for those services to be effective, youth need assistance in being able to access them. Just as in the story of De’Shan, CASA volunteers who care about a young person, help them understand their potential, and connect these youth to critical services, can mean the difference between survival and success. CASA volunteers create a turning point in these young lives, showing them that they are worth caring about and that they can succeed. CASAS trained to work with transition age youth:
- ensure that exit planning is complete;
- mentor the young adult through the process of accessing available aid, completing their education, securing housing, transportation, job training and employment;
- and most importantly, help these young adults gain confidence and obtain self-sufficiency.
According to the 2011 study, “Young Adult Outcomes of Youth Exiting Dependent or Delinquent Care in Los Angeles County,” of the youth aging out of the foster care system in Los Angeles County, one third experienced extreme poverty, 20 percent received outpatient mental health services, 25 percent spent time in jail, and only 25 percent were consistently employed. Through the Transition Age Youth Initiative, CASA of Los Angeles is working to change those odds.