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Guest Column: Aging Out of Foster Care

Many youth become homeless after aging out of the foster care system at age 18, according to The Link representative Julia O'Brien.

As the Development and Marketing Director of The Link, which provides supportive services to formerly homeless youth living at Lincoln Place in Eagan, I am often asked how the residents (18-24) became homeless.

As we know, the reasons are complex. But for one-third of the residents the reason is simple; upon turning 18 years of age, they automatically age out of the foster care system. This means that the youth's foster family no longer receives a stipend for having the foster child live with the family. Without financial support, many of the foster families terminate their support with the foster child. Even if the youth is in high school, the support terminates. The youth has to fend for himself. Often, the school counselor knows who is homeless and contacts Dakota County Social Services which then refers the youth to Lincoln Place.

The next question I often get is how kids end up in the foster care system. Many end up in the system because they were taken out their homes due to parental neglect. In time, some are reunited with their families. But for the youth that are permanently placed, turning 18 can be a difficult experience. They are now on their own without many of the supports youth need as they transition to adulthood.

How many of us can say that we were ready for adulthood on our 18th birthday? Who of us at 18 are able to work, go to school, budget, pay our bills and manage our emotional lives without the support of our family members? This can be an overwhelming time, even under the best of circumstances.

The staff at Lincoln Place support the residents transition to adulthood. Each youth creates a plan with their caseworker to reach their goals. For some residents this means graduating from high school and preparing for college. For others, it means passing their G.E.D. and assessing their interests and skills to obtain a job. Each resident is encouraged to become the person they want to be.

Editor's Note: Homelessness rates in Dakota County and other suburban communities in Minnesota have risen substantially in the last five years. This article is part of a Patch series exploring that trend. Click on the links below to read other articles on the topic.

  • Aug. 13
  • Aug. 14


Elyse Ted August 14, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Programs such as KEYS, which KidsPeace uses to help bridge the gap between foster care and independence, can make a big difference for youth about to go out on their own: http://www.kidspeace.org/services.aspx?id=3596
Anna Schier August 14, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I certainly wasn't even close to ready to manage my life as an adult on my 18th birthday. I was still a year away from graduating high school! Thanks to Julia and The Link for shining light on this interesting component of the fight to end homelessness in Dakota County.

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