While building towards a comprehensive thesis on “aging out” I’ve been weaving my way from the Heart Gallery’s premise, professional photographers donating their time taking photographers of children in foster care in New Jersey, believing that those photographs would draw interest from prospective families.
That’s been true from day 1. More than 25 million hits on our web site:
Thousands of email inquiries and phone calls to 1.800.99.adopt from people reaching out to help and adopt these kids. More than 130 kids adopted and still more adoptions to be finalized. This is what we dreamed of but never fully comprehended how great the impact would be. Our first shoot of more than 350 kids took place in 2005 with the second shoot in 2007, the “100 Waiting Children”.
The “100 Waiting Children” project, spotlighting those orphans who have been in dyfs foster care the longest, sparked the interest in “aging out”, kids turning 18 without ever having been adopted.
After spending the past two weeks at Covenant House and Raphael’s Life House, I’m seeing statistics and white papers on aging out played out in real life.
Approximately 20,000 youths nation wide age out of foster care each year. According to Mark Courtney, “With the exception of incarcerated youth, foster youth are the only group that is involuntarily separated from their families through government intervention. “
- 37% of foster youth aged 17–20 had not completed high school degree
or received a GED.
- They more often suffer from mental health problems.
- They more often become involved in crime or are victims of crime.
- They are more frequently homeless
1 On Your Own without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations, edited by D. Wayne Osgood, E. Michael Foster,
Constance Flanagan, and Gretchen Ruth, is forthcoming, University of Chicago Press in fall 2005. The volume is a product of the Network on
Transitions to Adulthood, funded by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation (www.transad.pop.upenn.edu).
2 F. Wulczyn and K Hislop, “Children in Substitute Care at Age 16: Selected Findings from Multistate Data Archive” (Chicago: Chapin Hall
Center for Children at the University of Chicago, 2001).
A lot of the kids at Covenant House have mental health problems. Hard to know how much of what they are telling me is the truth or just what they think the truth should be. The majority have no high school diploma, encounter problems with the law, are homeless and move from shelter to shelter. Without a place like Covenant House and the life learning programs they offer, I cannot imagine where these children would be.
This project has to focus on FOUR aspects.
- Covenant House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths
- Integrity House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths with drug and/or alcohol addiction
- Rafael’s Life House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths who are unwed mother
- Caregivers, counselors, advisor’s and others who mentor and help these youths