Every month, a half dozen youngsters from our City leave the state foster care system. Why? They are aged out, i.e., because they have opted out at 18 or are too old to qualify for continued fostering. Several years ago, a group of St. Louis philanthropies decided to find out what happened to these kids. They found out that half of these kids end up homeless for some period of time, that more than half never graduate from high school, and that 8 out 10 of the young women are pregnant by the time they were 21.
Troubled by these sobering statistics, the group organized a new system - the St. Louis Aging Out Initiative - in which 16 year olds in foster care would get life skills training so they could take better care of themselves when they ended up on their own. (Even with all the advantages you have given her, what would your own 18 year-old be able to do without you?)
Kids in the program learn about finances, including how to get money for college or training. They learn what community resources are available to them and how to get them. And they leave foster care with a “life binder” which includes a Social Security Card, birth certificate, family health history, immunization records, and pictures of their families. The theory, which time is testing, is that these young men and women will be better prepared to face some of the many decisions - big and small - that need to be made as they become adults, citizens, workers, and parents.
This is a great program.