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Monday, April 21, 2014

Aging out - or being dropped off?

A recent editorial on the US news network CNN spoke about the degree to which youth in child protection care are becoming abandoned as they reach the age of majority. There are certainly significant differences across jurisdictions, but far too often youth are told that, upon reaching that magic age of adulthood, that they must now find their pathway as an adult. Many do so with only scant resources to support the transition, although there are again differences between jurisdictions.

YouTube is full of stories about youth experiences, with many of them negative and disheartening. The CNN editorial offered some data that adds to the dismal picture.

This data mirrors longitudinal studies which have been done in the USA and the UK.

I find myself contemplating the aging out process at the same time as often seeing research and media stories that talk about how the generation presently growing up is living at home longer. They are taking more years to become independent facing tough challenges with employment and the cost of education. Yet we seem to expect that foster youth, who have typically faced significant emotional, mental health and physical challenges, are expected to do so much sooner. Greater disadvantage is heightened by this approach.

To change this requires taxpayers to understand that these youth need longer supports. Yet, they should be keen to offer this support given how much it costs to address the mental health, unemployment, jailing and early pregnancies that occur when supports are pulled before youth are ready to be independent adults. As a society, we are going to pay one way or the other. I suggest that longer supports to help foster youth make into the adult world is the cheaper option - and the more socially responsible one.

We need to get the attention of policy makers on this one.

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