SALT LAKE CITY — Every year, about 24,000 kids "age out" of the foster care system across the country. Foster care workers in Utah say the transition into adulthood can be more than some kids can handle.
Transitioning from a teen into an adult is hard for anyone, even for young adults who have a stable family structure.
"They've got a family they can return to if they get into trouble, if they lose a job, or if they can't find a job," said Mike Hamblin with the Utah Foster Care Foundation. "If they aren't doing well in school, they've got someone they can turn to."
Hamblin said it's extremely rare for someone to be able to sustain themselves at the age of 18.
"The reality is that no one is ready at that age to transition and be on their own," he said.
Being in the foster care system can be very frustrating for some kids. Their lives are filled with regulations that other kids don't have to deal with. He said many foster children voiced these frustrations at a recent youth summit.
Foster children in Utah
Source: North American Council on AdoptableChildren
"Some of the complaints they had were [similar to], ‘If anybody else wants to have a sleepover at a friend's house, they talk to their parents and they have a sleepover at their friend's house. But if you're in foster care, you have to have those friends' parents get a background check. Who wants to do that?'" Hamblin said.
According to the website childrensrights.org, the average foster kid is place in four different homes, spending more than a year and a half in the system. Of course, many kids spend a lot more time that that in foster care.
In 2010, 172 kids in Utah aged out of the system without being adopted or having a guardian family, according to the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Hamblin said kids like this are more likely to become chronically homeless.
Aren't there resources for these young adults to help them ease into living on their own? Of course there are. Hamblin said there are sources of funding for them if they need it, as well as services to help them make better financial decisions and find housing. The Transition to Adult Living Program offered by the state teaches them things like how to do laundry, how to cook and how to shop.
However, one major problem prevents these young adults from accepting help when they need it.
"They're just so ready to be away from case workers and away from the system that they don't always take advantage of those resources," Hamblin said.
He said that's why they try to help foster families form more permanent relationships with these kids, which leads to formalized connections between foster family and foster child, like adoption. That way, the child has a more secure support system as they try to make it on their own.