What was about to happen on Feb. 4, 1999, would drastically accelerate the trajectory of Christopher Thomas’ life, which had been spiraling downhill since birth, and end up with him getting sentenced to 40 years in prison as an unarmed tagalong in a nonlethal shooting. Seventeen years later, he is in prison still trying to understand how he got such a harsh sentence in a life that was never really his own.
Burdensome paperwork requirements, limited academic preparation and a lack of adult guidance and support make it difficult for foster and homeless youth to pursue higher education, says a new report by the Government Accountability Office.
Katrina Alston wasn’t trained as a therapist, social worker or anything of that nature when she worked at a Pasadena, California, group home for emotionally troubled teenage girls in the Los Angeles County foster care system. She simply went through a weeklong training process and two weeks of job shadowing.
A Senate Judiciary hearing, held this week as part of National Foster Care Month, looked at how jurisdictions across the country are finding ways to help “dual status” or “crossover” youth by sharing information, staff and responsibility for outcomes.
“Aging is not safe. Aging out leaves kids with sort of a lifetime of potential dire outcomes and loneliness," says Susan Grundberg, executive director and CEO of You Gotta Believe (YGB), a New York City nonprofit organization that focuses on finding permanent families for young adults, teens and preteens in foster care.
Young people aging out of foster care face a multitude of obstacles, including unemployment and homelessness, health care access and education. Researchers, academics, practitioners and current and former foster youth came together to discuss transitioning out of the foster care system and some much-needed solutions to the complex problems.
Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew grew up in the foster care system in Los Angeles, where she lived in 14 different group homes, most of which featured various levels of abuse. Her experience showed her how children, in a system built to protect them, often face life-endangering risks that often go unnoticed by the public.