This is my experience with the government and foster care. I went into foster care on June 7th, 2005 . I had just turned 14 on June 4th, 2005. When I was a senior in high school I was trying to figure out what was going to happen to me when I went to college. What kind of benefits would I get? When were they going to kick me out? Would I get help when I move?
The benefits I was supposed to get was 4 years (free room and board and schooling). What really happened is I got FASFA; like all the other people, and I only got $2,000 some odd dollars for the year. I used all of it and some of my FASFA money to pay for rent and I still lived there 3 months without rent. So as you can see it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. In my county [back then], once you turn 18 and you graduate, you are kicked out of the foster home immediately. I was very scared.
Where was I going to go [until] I moved into my apartment for college? I had to go through this whole process of talking to my social worker and writing a detailed letter [as to] why they should let me stay till August. They did allow it . Most foster care kids would have not gotten that opportunity. I was very lucky [back then].
When I finally moved and started going to college fall of ’09, I realized I didn’t have enough money for food. So a lot of times I didn’t eat. I also didn’t have a social worker, psychiatrist, or a therapist. Three things I needed desperately to be successful. Before I left, the county did not help me get any of these things on my own. As a teen aging out of foster care, I had no idea what to do. It’s like because I was 18 they expected me to just grow up and do everything on my own. So of course, I plummeted into a deep depression ... and I missed a lot of school. I also was in the hospital for a month for suicidal ideation in November. I had to make up 3 classes for 1 month. I was able to make up 2 but failed the other. My 2nd semester wasn’t so easy. I failed out of all my classes and accumulated a huge bill or $800 some odd dollars of debt.
Eventually I got a social worker in January. I moved to Lincoln Place May 4th, 2010. Lincoln Place is for people who were in foster care, aged out of foster care, were homeless, and high risk of homelessness. You have to be 18-24 years old to get in but you can stay past the age of 24. It’s permanent supportive housing. They have a case manager, program manager, and staff that are there 24/7.
Currently I have not gotten a job yet. I have not gone back to school yet. I have not gotten my license. I am on medication, have a psychiatrist and still have my case manager. I do not have a therapist yet but I am working on it. I am doing better now but just inching up to where I wish I could have been when I moved out of the foster home.
I really do believe something needs to be done about the foster care system, and what can be done about the ones aging out. We need more support and understanding. We need more people to advocate on our behalf. If you believe in what I’m saying, then please whenever you can tell someone about this struggle, [do so]. I don’t want any foster care kid to go through what I went through.
Written by: Heather H.
© 2017 Partnerships for Permanence Inc. All Rights Reserved.