All children in foster care hope to hear the magic words, “Meet your new family.” But children who don’t get to hear that remain in the system until they are 18 years old. Upon leaving the system, the now young adults are forced to make their own decisions.
“When the state has to come in, we should have the same expectation that the young adults need help into their 20s,” Dr. Clark Peters said.
Peters, who spoke to a group of a dozen people in Morrison Hall on Friday, April 19, reinforced the idea that children in foster care should be kept in the system into their 20s.
The presentation, titled, “Youths in State Court: Changing Legal and Policy Landscapes,” was put on by the Department of American Studies. Michael Antonucci, associate professor in the American Studies department, and Mark Loevy-Reyes, a legal career advisor at Keene State College, brought in Peters hoping to raise awareness.
“It’s [the program] a new attempt to raise awareness among various academic areas about the role of law,” Loevy-Reyes said. He added that he anticipates this kind of program will be put on at least yearly.
Peters, assistant professor at the school of social work at the University of Missouri, talked about how children who are in foster care need a lot of support. He added that housing, medical care and educational support are the biggest concerns for youth in the system.
“It [support] is very important,” sophomore Hersch Rothmel said. “Foster care is not a Hilton [hotel].”
In a study done looking at Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, foster youths fresh out of the system have had decreased engagement in both education and the workforce. Also part of the study, mental and behavioral health has decreased while justice system involvement has increased.
“States that extend care to age 21 show better outcomes,” Peters referenced.
According to Peters, the state definition of adulthood is 18, but the maturity of humans is still developing after that age.
Peters explained the problem we face today is that the group of young people need assistance and the solution is keeping them in the system until they are 21.
“Young people that turn 18 are more than ready to be done with the system,” Peters explained.
According to studies, even though the young adults are fed up with the system, they seem to be worse off if they are let out at age 18. Peters addressed more problems in the form of the youth adults running back to their parents when they are let out, becoming homeless.
According to Peters, youths in state care are there because they have parents who just don’t care and the state has become involved. Peters added that in today’s society, the transition from childhood to adulthood is longer. He also added that half of young adults ages 18-24 live with their parents and receive $38,000 in direct family support.
Micahel Woodworth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org