Preparing Youth for Adulthood
Preparing our youth for adulthood has become an increasingly difficult task in today’s society and it seems like many teenagers are ill prepared for that momentous step in life. Foster children seem to have an even more difficult time making that transition.Because of that I think the foster care agencies should focus more attention on preparing children for that transition.
Unfortunately, some of the foster children under my counsel flounder. Part of the problem is that there is no safety net for these former foster children because when they came of age medical insurance is no longer available. As a result they lose all their medical benefi ts as well as their mental health services.
To make it worse most of these youngsters have poor job skills and their social skills aren’t very good either. Then there are the young people who have criminal records and the possibility of them getting employment is almost nil. Most have struggled just to get through high school, they have little concept of how to handle money, and they usually have no place to live and no one to turn to when they are in trouble. Add all their mental health issues to this mix and the whole situation can turn into serious trouble, not only for the young person, but also for society as a whole.
To prevent or at least minimize these problems, it is imperative to begin working early with youngsters who are in foster care to help them learn what to expect when they are older. Fortunately, many foster parents do that and they are to be commended for their foresight.
However, preparing youngsters for adulthood is especially difficult with foster children because they already live in a “different world”. They usually find it diffi cult to focus and survive in the present, let alone think about their future. Many of them have no idea where they will be in a month, let alone in years, and as a result they have no interest in looking toward the more distant future.
One way to help children in foster care make the transition as easily as possible is for foster care agencies to provide life skills classes to their clients. These classes should include such things as how to find a job, handling money, budgeting, grocery shopping, buying clothes, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, how to use public transportation, how to find a place to live, continuing their education, and how to fi nd medical and mental health services.
Reprinted with the permission of the NFPA. © 2008 by NFPA. All Rights Reserved.
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