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Nikki Strieby is signing up for college. She recently aged out of the foster care program.
"Going to college and starting a new life. I'm excited. I feel like it's like Christmas again," she said. "I was in foster care ever since I was three. I got taken away when I was 3 years old, in and out of different foster homes."
Marianne Brough, with the Utah Youth Mentor project, said, "Aging out is a challenge because prior to aging out, youth have a lot of support systems, they have therapists, caseworkers, foster parents, people on their team who are there to be there for them. When they age out of foster care they no longer have any of that support."
Nikki agrees. "It's a lot of responsibility. It's not easy being an adult."
Jennifer Larson, the Adolescent Service Program Administrator, said, "It's been very tough for her. She's experienced a lot of the things that youth experience when they leave care."
Among the things Nikki has experienced is homelessness.
"It doesn't really bother me anymore knowing that I might have to sleep outside," Nikki said. "I was sleeping outside again and I woke up and I said, ‘I need to go to college. I need to get a career.'"
Larson says having an adult who cares about these kids is can make all the difference. She says that adult can be a parent, it can be a foster care parent, a mentor or a school teacher.
"If they have that, their outcomes are so much more successful, than youth that do not have that. The whole thing about why adoption is a good thing, is that it provides the relationship that's going to be the determining factor in whether or not that youth is going to be successful," Larson said.
Nikki felt that support from her foster parents, but unfortunately they both died.
"Having parents is a wonderful thing. I hear a lot of kids say that they don't like their parents, and I get frustrated with them because they don't, they have their parents in their life," she said.
There are 200 children who age out of the Utah Foster Care system every year. Without parents they have a 50-50 chance of graduating from high school. Those statistics drastically drop for going to college, and there is a significant risk they'll end up behind bars.