While there are many narratives that tell children in foster care how unlikely they are to succeed, we want to begin acting on and telling a different story.
A transition from childhood to adulthood is quite a difficult time. A person is beginning to make the decisions for their own life. They are asked to take on more responsibilities, decide whom they want to be and what they want to do. It can feel a daunting task, growing up, but for those who have not had a typical upbringing it has the potential to be even more difficult. Kids and young adults in the foster care system have often experienced less consistency in schools and in home life, sometimes moving several times in their adolescence taking with them some insecurities about education and about a future that they can control.
But, this does not and should not continue to be the case. Counties and states across the United States have begun to prioritize the health and wellness of children in foster care more and more, particularly older youth who will soon make the transition to independence. Care providers, mentors and foster parents are being asked to help older youth learn independence skills that they will need once they exit the foster care system. We are being called upon to assist and step in to model and aid in exploring career ideas, budgeting, preparing meals, and applying to jobs with a resume and cover letter.
This is meant to provide both necessary skills, and the mental capacity to picture a life outside of foster care where they control their own outcomes and directions. A sense of control over their life that a person has is one of the fundamental characteristics of success and thriving. When placed in foster care, “that good feeling of control” that Mr. Rogers talks about is often stripped away. In its place, a complacency can settle in if nobody presents a way to regain that feeling of control over their lives. They need to be taught that just because where they live is not something they can control, they still can control where they go from there. They can begin saving money, they can begin exploring different things they are passionate about, there are ways that they can learn more about themselves and continue growing into the person that they want to be.
Our youth in foster care need to know that it is not impossible to thrive and succeed in their lives. They need to see examples in their lives of both ways that they can succeed and explore, and ways that others have done the same. They have great potential and just need a little bit of guidance to realize that full potential. Let’s be the kind of people that act and step in to be a part of the lives of those who need us the most!