I was lucky. I was born in, and made dependent of, a county that has a contract with a really, really good wraparound program for emancipated foster youth. For the past 5 years, I have received therapy from a very kind clinician, been supported in finding housing, and given access to respectful psychiatrists who listened to my concerns and were always happy to let me try coming off meds. I have a full team of adults who genuinely care for me and my future. It feels more like a family, not at all like the faceless case-shuffling I experienced in foster care. I have been able to heal so much from their support – there is still stress involving money, education, and my trauma, but having a stable support system has allowed me to grow and learn about myself and the world.
I know that not everyone gets this opportunity, and that’s a huge issue. Now, I have hopes and dreams and goals, whereas before, when I was exiting foster care, I didn’t think I was good enough to have dreams. I have friends that I’ve made myself, aided by years of weekly intensive therapy (by the same clinician who I trust) to overcome my attachment issues. Plainly, if I didn’t have aftercare, I’d likely be on the street, maybe pregnant or drug addicted or dead.
Why doesn’t everyone have access to these services? Why do so many of us go through hell, just to find more closed doors and strange faces? Before, we may have been locked behind closed doors, then we turn 18 and are locked out of them.
We need more compassion, for sure. But even from a purely economic position – if we’re afraid to fund aftercare services because our states and federal government can’t afford it, imagine how much more money is being drained by creating adults totally dependent on the system, relying on “handouts” and shelters to survive.
Not to mention, the cycle is likely to repeat itself – if a mother is unable to support herself and her child, they enter the child welfare system again. By failing to provide services to aging out foster youth, we’re creating new foster kids!
It makes sense to invest in our future economy by offering comprehensive services to TAY. But, shame all the same for putting a dollar sign on a human life. It’s simply the right thing to do.
Why would we take a child from their home, claiming to care about the child’s welfare, only to throw then back in the street as adults? Are we really that messed up as a society? Do we really care?
After care is a need, not a privilege. It should be a right.