Indiana News

Data reveals unstable road for Indiana foster youth

(Photo Supplied/Indiana News Service)

INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana News Service): New research uncovers the instability faced by Indiana youth in foster care, and the resulting negative outcomes experienced during their transition to adulthood.

Fostering Youth Transitions, a data brief released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, showed that moving in and out of foster care placements, unstable placement settings, and leaving foster care without finding a permanent family can create barriers to well-being for young people. Brent Kent, president and CEO with the foster youth advocacy organization Indiana Connected By 25, said that includes difficulties securing education, employment, and housing.

“Among foster youth aging out in the Midwest, 1-in-5 will be homeless within two years of leaving the state’s custody,” Kent said; “only about 50 percent are employed at age 24, and only about 58 percent have earned a high school diploma or GED by age 19.”

The report noted these challenges are exacerbated by race, as young people of color enter the foster care system at higher rates than their white peers and are more likely to experience three or more placements. About 18 percent of Indiana children in foster care are between the ages of 14 and 18, and 1-in-3 will age out of care.

Leslie Gross is director of the foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, which works specifically to improve outcomes for foster youth ages 14 and over. She said better data, policies and practices can give foster youth their best shot at life.

“All young people regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code deserve the relationships, resources, and opportunities to ensure their well-being and success,” Gross said. “And so we know that we must work with communities and other stakeholders to change what is happening for youth of color.”

In Indiana, Kent said, efforts continue to extend the age of foster care to 21, and aftercare services to 23, which would give youth more time to complete high school and enroll in college before they are on their own.

“Today Indiana, like most states, don’t even know what the graduation rate of the foster youth are,” Kent said. “Now, these are children in the state’s own custody. The state needs to be a prudent parent and take charge of their educational outcomes.”

He contends the state should also identify foster youth as a “vulnerable student group,” so schools would have to develop specific strategies to help meet the educational needs of children in foster care.

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