The purpose of this primary program is to prevent the aging out of youth and young adults in Baltimore Public Schools within the foster care system through the increased awareness and ultimately the adoption of these youths. The Arc Baltimore (https://www.thearcbaltimore.org/programs/family-services/foster-care/) will attend the educational programs and awareness campaigns over the course of a year to teach about the foster care system and the type of situations that teens face as they age out of the foster care system without being adopted. This program will also work in collaboration with FosterOn (https://fosteron.org/), a foster care service based in Massachusetts, through video conferences and consultations. This program will serve teens ages 15 to 17 who are within the Baltimore Public School System who are also in foster care. The program will consist of members of the community who will engage in 12 of the program workshops to receive the necessary insight and information to help raise awareness in the foster care system. The foster care system is designed for children of all ages; however this program will specifically focus on those who are the ages of 15 to 17 as this is the age in which they begin to “age out” leaving them alone. This age group is also the focus group of the organization FosterOn who plan on assisting in this program. The exclusionary criteria include children who are below the ages of 15 as well as community members who do not participate in the activities presented for the awareness of this system. This group will be excluded as those who are aged below 15 experience an increased likelihood of adoption compared to those in their late teen years.
There are over 400,000 children are in foster care in the United States, with almost all of them waiting to be adopted. The issue that arises is that most of them will age out of foster care without ever being adopted adoptive family. With these teens aging out, most of them do not handle adulthood properly as they were not able to have any support before entering adulthood. Many experience homelessness and issues with the law upon aging out of the foster care system. Research studies have shown that teens who have been adopted and receive the support of a loving family fare better than those who are left alone. However, this problem does not have the amount of awareness behind it that it should, causing this issue to remain prevalent and on the rise.
According to ForeverFamily.org, “approximately 24,000 American teenagers in foster care turn 18 years old each year. At this age, they are expected to move out and start their lives on their own.” (ForeverFamily, n.d.). This is one of the most common occurrences within the foster care system as many teens never get adopted. Many foster children have a hard time finding adoptive families for many children, especially older children. As these children age, the chances for adoption decreases dramatically (Family & Youth Initiative, n.d.). After a year in foster care, the chance of being adopted decreases “rapidly,” and after three to three and a half years in care, the chance of leaving before being adopted before aging out is “incredibly low” (National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, 2013). After these teens age out of the foster care system, they tend to have a harder time in young adulthood. This is present from various statistics present. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, “after reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless. Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24. There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life. 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.” (NFYI, n.d.).
Providing a home for every teen in the foster care system is not a feasible goal as the awareness for this issue is one that is very low as there is not much research around this topic as well.
The Life Course Theory lays down the framework for understanding development of emerging adults in foster care . This theory touches upon the various directions and paths that can lead to different outcomes as one progresses to adulthood (Elder, 1998). Life Course Theory explains human development in an ecological context meaning that human development is based off of their surroundings. This program presented uses this theory as it focuses on the environment that brings forth the different life paths that those in the foster care tend to face and how the adoption of these children can alter that life path.
The program presented also focuses on Brofenbrenner’s socioecological theory. This theory involves the interaction of an individual with their different environments: these systems include the microsystem and macrosystem and how it effects their development and life(Bronfenbrenner, 1977). In this program, the theory places focus on the microsystems which are the individual, family, peers, community, as well as the schools and neighboring environments. This program will directly interact with community members as information on the rising issue of foster children aging out will be provided.
This program also employs the social learning theory because the program seeks to teach participants as well as the surrounding community about the ever rising problem of foster kids being too old to be adopted, leaving them without a family or support. This program will do this by creating community based events and awareness campaigns to educate the participants and community about this issue. It will work because by educating those involved and around, the social norm (environmental factor) and attitudes towards (cognitive factor) foster kids being too old to be chosen can begin to be changed.
The goal of this program is to increase awareness for those children and teens in public schools who are in the foster care system who age out and grow up without families and support. Through educational and informational campaigns and workshops, community members will have increased knowledge of teens who age out of the foster care system, which will result in increased rates of adoption of this age group in the long term.
The objective of this program is to increase to see an increase in community awareness of public school foster teens by 20% in at least 50% of the participating communities and neighborhoods by the end of the year. This objective will assist in accomplishing the goal of increasing the adoption rates of teens and young adults in public schools within Baltimore City, Maryland. The program will measure the participants’ knowledge through a pre-assessment and post-assessment which will be given at the beginning and the end of the program.
The pre-assessment and post-assessment will have questions related to the following factors of the foster care system such as:
- Type of children in the system
- Mean age of adoption
- Average amount of children placed in foster care a year
- Average amount of teens who age out of the system
- Which race is more likely to get adopted
- What foster care programs have you heard of
- What strategies have been helpful in finding youth permanent homes
- What happens after teens age out
- What is the likelihood of those who age out becoming homeless
The answers to the pre-assessment and post-assessment will be compared to each other respectively to assess the participants’ knowledge over the 12-month period.
The program consists of two major activities. These activities are workshops and awareness raising campaigns led by team and discussion leaders. Participants will be taught by discussion leaders and activist within the foster care system. These participants will learn about the differences in adoption rates, the likelihood of adoption once older in age, as well what can happen once they age out of the system. The workshops the participants will attended will be at least 1 hour in length once a month. For this program, participants are required to attend at least 8 of the 12 activities scheduled.
In the first workshop session, participants will begin by taking a pre-assessment to measure where their knowledge of the foster care system is. In the second and third sessions, the participants will learn about what happens when teens age out of the system and the importance behind it. In the fourth and fifth sessions, the participants will visit a foster care center and participate in creating art with the teens that are directed towards adoption awareness. In the sixth and seventh sessions, participants will write letters to the mayor and governor with information on the program, requesting a way to gain support for increasing the awareness of what happens in the foster care system as these teens continue to age out. Also, during these sessions, participants will also write letters to their local radio station requesting any assistance in helping spread the word of this program to make it more public. The next five sessions will be in the community awareness raising activities. These activities will be as followed respectively:
- Distribute information about foster care needs in your community or compelling stories to newsletters, advocacy groups, bulletin boards, public service announcements, parent/teacher organizations, community centers, web sites and special interest groups.
- Distribute information on ways members of your community can make a difference in the lives of young people in foster care
- Distribute foster care fact sheets, bumper stickers, bookmarks/inserts, banners and other materials with foster care information
- Try and Recruit members of the community (church, workplace, neighborhood or community center) to volunteer to support foster families or to become foster parents
In the final session, participants will recap on their experiences throughout the year as well as how they feel in terms of making an actual difference in the community. Following this review, the post-assessment will be given consisting of the same questions. The results of the questions will be recorded and compared to the pre-assessment. If the results are better than before, the awareness that the participants have towards the foster care system and aging out teens have improved.
- Program Director, ½ FTE: must have a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work or related field. This staff member will work 15-20 per month with the program presented. He or she is responsible for communicating with participants during the 12-month program as well as organizing scheduled events within the community that have been laid out by the program presented.
- Discussion/Workshop Leader, ¼ FTE: Must have an Associate’s Degree in Social Work or higher, Must have prior knowledge of the foster care system, must have at least one year experience in discussion leading, he or she is responsible for facilitating discussion amongst the participants as well as providing the necessary information to the participants to accurately and efficiently communicate goals in each of the workshops.
- Discussion Assistant: ¼ FTE: Must be volunteers, Volunteers will be high school or college students who are interested in becoming more involved within the social and human services system. Discussion assistants will assist in putting together and printing out information and fact sheets for participants to take home and distribute in later sessions. They will meet with discussion leaders at the end of the session each month to receive assignments and plan out the next month’s activities to be completed by the participants in the next session.
- Supplies include paper, ink, printers, pens, markers, and poster boards. The ink and paper will be used for worksheets and information sheets that will be distributed to the participants during the workshops and to the community in later sessions. The poster board and markers and will be used in the art session with the children and teens in the foster care facility that is visited.
The Arc Baltimore works diligently to ensure that each foster child they come in contact with is presented with care and treatment. They work closely with potential foster care parents to make sure that every child that is adopted is adopted into a loving family that will help that child or teen reach their full potential. FosterOn is dedicated to “remind society that foster kids of all ages are valuable and worthy of love–that every kid should have at least one person who will always be there for them. We envision a world where every kid who leaves foster care finds at least one person who will be there for them.” (FosterOn, n.d.). This foster care awareness program is a chance for those who may not know about the difficulties and hardships that teens face to gain more insight into what actually goes on. This program also brings forth the opportunity for teens to be adopted who usually are regarded as too old.
- Program Director
- Trained discussion leaders and assistants
- Workshop room/office provided by The Arc Baltimore
- Room able to 15-20 people (staff and participants)
- Training material (booklets and packets)
- Paper for printing information and fact sheets on foster care system and awareness
- Poster boards and markers for art awareness session and signs for awareness campaign and volunteer recruitment
- Communicating with participants during the 12-month program
- organizing scheduled events within the community that have been laid out by the program presented Diagnose causes of local cases
Discussion Leaders and Assistants
- responsible for facilitating discussion amongst the participants
- providing the necessary information to the participants to accurately and efficiently communicate goals in each of the workshops.
- Assist in putting together and printing out information and fact sheets for participants to take home and distribute in later sessions
- Will meet with discussion leaders at the end of the session each month to receive assignments and plan out the next month’s activities to be completed by the participants in the next session
- Attend 11 workshops and 1 in the field activity in the community to learn about the foster care system and what the issues facing an aging out teen
- Participants will have firsthand experience with foster care teens though a mentorship activity
- Participants will learn about the various outcomes within the foster care system and aging out of it
- Participants will be given informational worksheets that they will be able to review at home
- Participants will incorporate what they learned and share it with immediate community
- Increase knowledge and awareness of teens in the foster are system aging out by 20%, leaving them with little to no support or training for life after foster care
- Increase the amount of adoptions for teens ages 15-17.
- Decrease the amount of teens aging out within the foster care system.
- Ahmann, E. (2017). Supporting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care. Pediatric Nursing, 43(1), 43–48. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=121353604&site=ehost-live
- Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32(7), 513-531. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.32.7.513
- National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NACSW). (2013). NACSW, No. 19: Risk of long-term foster care report. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/resource/nscaw-no-19-risk-oflong-term-foster-care-report
- Reilly, T. (2003). Transition from care: Status and outcomes of youth who age out of foster care. Child Welfare League of America, 82(6), 727-746
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). (2016). The AFCARS report #23: Preliminary estimates for FY 2015 as of June 2016. Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/ afcarsreport23.pdf
- Ritter, K. (2005, November 24). Homes full of thanks. Philadelphia Inquirer, B1, B4
- Gomez, R.J., Ryan, T.N., Norton, C., Jones, C., Galan-Cisneros, P. (2015). Perceptions of learned helplessness among emerging adults aging out of foster care. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 1-10.
- Urban Institute. (2008). Coming of age: Employment outcomes for youth who age out of foster care through their middle twenties. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
- Elder, G. H. (1998). The life course as developmental theory. Child Development, 69,1–12.
- Aging Out Of Foster Care. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2020, from https://www.foreverfamily.org/aging-out-of-foster-care
- Family & Youth Initiative. (n.d.). Too many children are growing up without families in the Washington DC Metro area. Washington DC: Author.
- Nfyiadmin. (2017, May 26). 51 Useful Aging Out of Foster Care Statistics: Social Race Media. Retrieved January 20, 2020, from https://www.nfyi.org/51-useful-aging-out-of-foster-care-statistics-social-race-media/