Posted tagged ‘Aging Out’

UPDATE – Premature Birth, Mentally Ill Mother – 50 Foster Homes

July 11, 2008


AN UPDATE on Jonathan Norman Huges:

A little over a week after profiling Jonathan, there is an update. Jonathan is currently in the county jail for stabbing another teenager.

According to a According to the Child Welfare League of America, 27 percent of male children who age out of the foster care system end up in jail. Jonathan has quickly become another statistic.

Read the Aging Out of Foster Care interview on PBS at:

Meet Johnathan Norman Hughes, born at 6 1/2 months to a mentally ill mother. DHS – Children’s Protective Services in Michigan removed him from his mother after his sister reported neglect. After living in more than fifty foster homes, he ran away from his last foster home at sixteen years old. He says, not once did the police, his case worker or foster parents come looking for him. “If she (foster parent) reported me, then she wouldn’t get the money no more. She didn’t report me. She got the money and I didn’t want to be there and that’s a fair trade. She got what she wanted and I got what I wanted. She wanted free money without the responsibility and I wanted to be the heck away from this place. We both got what we wanted.”


Victim of Child Neglect & Malnutrition – Days Away From Dying

June 25, 2008


Meet Willie Jacovra Harden, a victim of child neglect & malnutrition. DYFS removed him from his mother who was neglecting and starving him. He says doctors told his grandmother that he was days away from dying of malnutrition.

DYFS removed him from his mother and placed him in kinship care with his grandmother but never closed his case. There was also sexual abuse by his stepfather. He lived with his grandmother until 18 years old. His DYFS caseworker told him about a program, Urban Youth Development Corporation, a program for transitional living.

Their mission:

Our mission is to implement, advocate for, train, and provide technical assistance to programs geared towards youth ages 5-24 years old and parents.  Our programs are all research-based models formatted developmentally correct, cognizant of their impact on children and their families, foster clear beliefs and standards, offer opportunities and skill building to participants, and recognize the accomplishments of youth so that healthy behaviors can be adopted by participants; thus making a substantial impact on communities, families, and children.  The primary issues the agency addresses are problematic teen behaviors, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, school failure, violence, juvenile delinquency, and homelessness.

He was 18 years old, his case was closed and soon after he was thrown out of the program for behavioral issues ending up homeless. He found out about Covenant House and is living there now.

Interviewed on the streets of Newark during a night of Outreach to the community.

Heart Gallery of New Jersey – Aging Out

June 18, 2008

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. “



  1. 37% of foster youth aged 17–20 had not completed high school degree
    or received a GED.
  2. They more often suffer from mental health problems.
  3. They more often become involved in crime or are victims of crime.
  4. 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 (

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.

  1. Covenant House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths
  2. Integrity House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths with drug and/or alcohol addiction
  3. Rafael’s Life House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths who are unwed mother
  4. Caregivers, counselors, advisor’s and others who mentor and help these youths

James – Covenant House

June 16, 2008



Entered DYFS system in 1998

Possible homeless child to document long term. Lengthy audio interview at Covenant House. MODEL RELEASE SIGNED.

Lived in numerous foster house as well as transitional homes.

  • Newark Transitional Housing
  • YCS Shelter in Jersey City
  • Volunteers of America in Plainfield
  • Goodwill Missionary Home in Newark

Talking about his history and claims:

  • His step father raped him numerous times
  • Step father dropped off him and his brother at dyfs, not interested in taking care of them any longer
  • Lived with one foster family for 3 years until accusations of stealing money from the family
  • Doesn’t know his legal status as to whether or not he was legally free for adoption when he finally aged out
  • Signed himself out of dyfs care at 18 and signed himself back in to dyfs so that he could get his month stipend and medicaid but says he’s only received one check in the past six months

While living at Volunteers of America in Jersey City, he says he almost choked his girlfriend until he went to staff member Kevin Williams fo help. Came to 3 conclusions as to what his life would be:

  1. A rapist or child molester
  2. Locked up in prison
  3. Control and abuse women

He was taken to a hospital for counseling.

He’s a member of: 24/7 Community Church Newark of the Worldwide Church of God.

Say’s he’s fathered at least two children with one dying last year


  1. Priscilla Speed – current case worker DO2
  2. Marlin Cenatus
  3. Candido Rivera

Audio: 165-171 on Korg – 6/16/08

5 Hours of Audio Tape

June 10, 2008

Today’s visit to Covenant House was a basic overview of how Covenant House works with homeless kids.

Not all have a history of foster care, many are just shuffled from relative to relative until they turn 18 and then kicked out of their homes. Many though do have a history of foster care and not just a few placements but dozens of placements. Home after home after home after home, shuffled for years on end and then let loose into the world with little to no resources.


After today, it seems not. It’s left to social services non profits like Covenant House to step in and try to save them before it’s too late. From what I saw today, only a handful are captured in Covenant’s safety net.

I put a cordless mic on Covenant House New Jersey Outreach Liaison Janette Scrozzo today and taped her as she gave me a tour and introduced me to numerous staff and several of the kids living there. It worked out great with the cordless as it was much less intrusive that holding a mic.

One of the major issues is going to be content management. I’ve backed up the audio from today on three separate hard drives in a folder with today’s date and Covenant House. This could quickly get overwhelming in terms of editing audio but I thought it was essential to get a basic understanding of what they do and how they approach the kids. Already some really strong sound bytes.

I had my camera but didn’t shoot a photo. More important to assimilate and get background that will help me later in the project.

First Meeting with Covenant House

June 10, 2008

After spending the last three years immersed in the Heart Gallery project and learning about foster care and adoption, I realized today how little I actually know about what happens to kids who “age out” or those children who reach 18 years old and choose to sign papers giving up services from dyfs and releasing themselves from dyfs care.

The focus is constantly on helping youth get adopted prior to their 18th birthday and not on those who “age out”.

The big question is, what actually happens to these kids when they “age out”? What resources are available to them? Are they kicked out of their foster homes on their 18th birthday? How do they support themselves? The questions never seems to end.

One of the startling things I learned today is that Covenant House Newark, NJ, a haven for homeless kids between 18 and 22 years old, often get phone calls from dyfs case workers asking to “drop off” these kids. Covenant House won’t accept a child directly from dyfs, it has to be the child who makes the choice to come to Covenant House, change their life path and follow the rules of Covenant House including saving 90% of their income and learning basic life lessons. What often happens is that the worker drops off the child a block from Covenant House and tells the child to walk in on their own. (This according to Covenant House officials).

The other shocking thing I learned today is that there is some sort of legal form these kids sign to release dyfs of their obligation to offer services to the kids until they turn twenty-one. After years and years in foster care, many of the kids jump at the chance to leave their foster or group home and start life on their own. In that zeal, they don’t realize that by signing this release, what it actually does is hurt them. They lose services that is due to them. Officials told me that many workers come in with the form to be signed without explaining to the kids that they will lose those services and several times Covenant House employees have stepped in to tell the kids of their rights.

It seems that dyfs wants to get these kids “off their books” and by signing that release, their cases are closed. No matter that most often it is to the child’s detriment. This is stunning to me. Isn’t there a law that forces dyfs to reveal that the children will lose all services by signing off on this release?