It makes me think about how much I learned in my teens and into my adult years from advice and counsel from my parents, grandparents and extended family. I had older and wiser counsel and practical help in recovering from mistakes. I was given second chances because someone coached me in how to navigate the business world or how to recover when I had failed to meet government requirements like licensing and taxing laws.
Even the best foster parents, overwhelmed with on-going challenges and government forms and stretching dollars often don't think far enough ahead; if they do, experience has taught them that they have a too high likelihood of not having an extended relationship with their wards. Some states "require" children "aging out" of foster care have a transition plan. Ironically in most states that is required to start less than a year (one said 90 days) before the aging out event. Does this seem sensible? Can we "instant teach" budgeting, how to read a pay stub, how and when to file taxes, what to do if you have a legal dispute (landlord, EEOC, child support, running afoul of infractions, misdemeanors or some class F felonies for example) where legal aid is not provided. How often do they sit down to teach a teenager how to fill out an employment application or help them do a mock interview? Do they have the resources to instruct on how to avoid a scam or what to do if you suspect a scam? Do they help them get together the documents that they will need in life such as birth certificates, state IDs or driver's licenses, health history, or contact information for extended family? Do they have materials to help them understand how to register for college or apply to take a GED? Do they understand how to access health care or how to manage their own health issues? Pretty sure their ability to help develop an ethical or spiritual base is frowned upon as most references I have found are wholly secular.
There are thousands of things my folks taught me (though much is more complicated now). But there were lots of things they knew, and they had years to introduce me to things like political issue research and to model voting regularly. They were active in their communities and churches in trying to give a hand up to folks who were struggling. When I moved to another state after more than 50 years living where I grew up, I was amazed at how much I suddenly didn't know from how to get help for an abandoned pet, to traffic law differences, to how the local government worked, to where to call for many small problems and challenges. This makes me feel great concern for young people who can not be making much more than minimum wage, are likely targets for scams and abuse, and are PTSD prone considering that Happy Days are not the launching pad for foster care. They often have physical and mental health issues that make access to medical care imperative and complicated.
I have stumbled. My family members have stumbled. We consulted; we researched, we reached out to each other and our extended families to find our way through. We were anxious, lonely, conflicted and family was there for us. Foster "graduates" may have some family support, but often the extended family is struggling too with broken relationships, financial hardship, limited education and narrow life experiences. Too often foster care does not or can not foster building closer ties with birth families.
Who stands for these young men; who stands with these young women who have already known more sorrow and poverty and distress than many of us know in a lifetime.
Again my tax dollars are making things worse rather than better and my church speaks of long-range goals and allocation of resources.