Not all children are not forced to age-out of foster care at age 18. In many states, they can choose to remain in
the system until the age of 21. It can be a smart strategy to stay in the system for as long as possible. For all its potential faults, the foster care system provides the
3 basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing.
However, teenagers don’t necessarily look at living requirements with a mature eye. The thing they value the most is freedom,
often to their own undoing. Tired of the rules and restrictions of a foster household, they opt-out of the system as early as possible and exchange the Big 3 for freedom...the
freedom to starve, the freedom to sleep in a cardboard box over a heat vent, and the freedom to wear the same tattered clothing unwashed for weeks at a time. By the time they realize
the reality is harsher than the fantasy, it’s already too late.
Living on the street makes them easy prey for criminals who promise them easy money. This begins a downward spiral from which it can
be very difficult, if not impossible, to emerge.
There are two kinds of Angels, the ones who do the field-work, and the ones who help pay for it. Both are
necessary to the process. Donate your time, your money, or both. One day, a grown-up foster child will thank you, and you will never know a better feeling.
It’s amazing how our society makes some services available to the needy and others not. For example, food
stamp are available to low income citizens with some restrictions. But what’s an 18-year-old with no job supposed to wear?
There is a famous story written by Bob Danzig in his book
Conversations with Bobby about his experiences being a young child
in the foster care system. The story recounts a time when he had to learn to stuff his shoes with newspaper because shoes were always purchased too big for his feet. Compared to
today’s age-outs, that’s a happy story, because Bobby was in the system, at least he had shoes. When a person exits the system, they might not have any shoes at all.
Food is another good news/bad news topic. The good news is food stamps are available. The bad news is the recipient has to have a
permanent address. No permanent address, no food for you. Now imagine a teenager faced with completing all the paperwork and filing it in a timely manner. It’s easy to imagine
a recipe for failure.
In the case of an age-out, it can be more difficult. Maintaining a permanent address, preparing paperwork with a below-grade-level
education, and not having transportation to a filing office all contribute to their not taking advantage of services designed to help them.
Don’t blame the government. We live in a bizarre world where there is fraud despite the best efforts of
the system to account for each individual. However, part of the process of accountability has led to paper on top of paper on top of paper, and it all just buries a teenager.
Teenagers think they’re going to live forever. The last thing on their minds is regular checkups from a
doctor. Yet, in many instances, low income people qualify for Medicaid and could have all of their medical expenses covered. Even dental is covered in most cases.
But it goes even further. Many young people in the foster care system fall into the special needs category for a variety of reasons.
Some are born with challenges, caused by the pre-natal process or genetics. Others suffer emotional distress inflicted upon them resulting in their removal from their biological
There is no shortage of instances where children are purposefully tortured by the adults who brought them into this world. Children
who are abused physically, sexually, and emotionally carry scars that inhibit their ability to function as adults and achieve to their fullest potential.
There are also more subtle scars that children carry with them into adulthood. Consider the single mom who wants to work and care
for her family, but gets sick and has to give her children up for their own good. Placing her children in foster care, she makes the most selfless decision a mother can make thinking
only of her children’s welfare. It’s a pity that, from a child’s perspective, this selfless act leads to feelings of abandonment that may never go away.
Most age-outs would benefit from some form of mental health counseling, some need more aggressive programs than others. Some of
these programs are available via Medicaid, others are not.
You can help them break the pattern of abuse, guide them through the initial stages of adulthood, and help them
create the family they have always dreamed about but never were granted. Everyone needs an angel...the angel is you.
The more education a person has, the more employment options open up for them, the greater
their earning potential. The problem is, many age-outs are awarded high-school diplomas as
social promotions rather than skill-based achievements. As a result, many children are pushed
into society with 6 th or 7 th grade skills and told to earn a living. It can’t be done.
Don’t blame the schools. This problem goes way beyond anything the schools can handle.
Frequently, foster children are shuffled from school to school more than once during a school
year, making continuity of education almost impossible. When they get home, foster children
don’t always have the same supervision that other children have when it comes to completing
assignments, or getting extra help. Combine that with the fact that DCF tries to maintain the
child’s cultural ties, meaning they are often in the worst school district where they are pressured
by peers for whom anti-education is worn as a badge of honor. Succumbing to the need all
teenagers have to just fit in, foster children grow up to find themselves aged-out and grossly
This is an area where your tax deductible contributions can really go a long way. Every child
entering the Age-Out Angels program is given a battery of diagnostic tests to determine their
skill level and a remedial program is devised where necessary to bring their skills up to a 12th
The more basic skills a child has, the more job opportunities become available. Not everyone is
meant to go to college, but there are plenty of trades taught by vocational programs where
children can turn a job into a career upon which they can raise a family without aid from federal
or state agencies.
Our goal is 12 th grade, because most foster children qualify to go to college for free, as long as
they can pass a basic college skills entrance examination. For appropriate children, completing
a college program means the sky’s the limit.
Economic indicators say unemployment is close to an all time low...so, where are all the jobs?
Not in the inner city, and getting a job in a suburban mall means finding the transportation to get
to and from work. How many teenagers do you know who are capable of taking two or three
busses each way to get to a minimum wage job consistently? It’s just not practical.
Then, there is the fact that age-outs rarely have any job interviewing skills. Their resumes, if
they have one, are unimpressive, their basic skills are below grade level for their age. Many
minimum wage jobs require basic computer and problem-solving skills that these youth simply
One of the best gifts a young employee can have is a job coach. Someone knowledgeable who
helps them get a job, and helps them keep a job. A job coach does more than just give advice.
A good job coach will role play interviews, help with a resume, and even make wardrobe
suggestions to give the age-out every possibility to land a position. Once employment has been
obtained, the job coach makes periodic visits to the place of employment, has discussions with
supervisors as necessary, and acts as advocate for the child if issues arise.
Bear in mind, we don’t want our age-outs to stop at just any minimum wage job. We want our
age-outs to always strive toward loftier goals. So, whenever possible, we plan to incorporate
employment with continued education and training to make the next step on the ladder of
success attainable. Isn’t that the American Dream? You can be an important part of helping a
child realize that dream.
It’s impractical to think children who may have never owned so much as a front door key can
suddenly adapt to managing a budget. Who among us could do that? Combine that with the fact
that most age-outs who have jobs earn minimum wage and you have all the ingredients for an
economic mess. All it takes for a low-wage earner is one financial crisis for the rent or utilities to
go unpaid starting a downward spiral where they end up on the street.
Frequently, this problem is actually far deeper than what we see on the surface. For example,
often, age-outs have had their credit destroyed by greedy relatives who used the child’s social
security number to charge massive amounts of unpaid debt for which the age-out becomes
responsible. Sometimes, there appears to be no way out.
We are not asking you to just give them money. That wouldn’t teach them the values of hard
work. But we are asking you to help provide for a paid professional to review their financial
situation, work with them to enact a winning budget strategy, and if necessary, guide them
toward repairing their credit. Their first act as an adult may have to be declaring bankruptcy in
order to get a fresh start. That’s a strategy they would never figure out on their own. However, if
declaring bankruptcy keeps them out of the hands of a drug dealer who promises them easy
money...then you may have just saved a life.
When most of us turned 16 or 17 years old, we couldn’t wait to get a car. A car represented the
ultimate form of freedom. Most foster children don’t have that experience.
As a result, when they age-out of the system, they are extremely transportation challenged. If
they need to travel outside of an urban center, they are at the mercy of a public transportation
system that is woefully inadequate. Before you say,
So what, let them take the bus, remember
that every minute they spend on a street corner, even waiting for a bus, is a moment bad things
can happen. All it takes is one
friend to drive by and offer them a
free ride, and they are in
That’s why Age-Out-Angels offers transportation with no strings attached. If a child needs to get
to college or work, we will help them get there. Our only caveat is if we take a child to school,
we expect them to go to class. If we take a child to work, we expect them to punch in. Every
service we provide is designed to help age-outs proceed along the path toward self-improvement, and transportation is a key obstacle, as most jobs and colleges are in suburban
locations miles away from the age-outs home base.
Eventually, our goal is to help age-outs secure their own transportation. But until then, we want
you to consider being that Angel who helps them get to college, work, and job training. Your
donation of time, or your tax deductible contribution brings age-outs one step closer to having
the life and the family they have always been denied.
Every day on the news we see stories about people who are unjustly arrested. Of course, only
the most dramatic cases where someone dies are reported nationally. What is under-reported is
the downward spiral that can be caused by the most simple arrest.
An arrest doesn’t exist in a vacuum. When a person is detained and they miss school or work,
there are consequences that extend far beyond the arrest. There is time lost for court
appearances, fines to pay, and in the case of certain felony convictions, loss of benefits. People
stuck in this part of the system are urged to just plead guilty to a lesser offense to make it go
away. But it doesn’t go away, because often the fines are insurmountable. When the fines don’t
get paid, they increase to the point where you can choose their preditor-a predator with a high
interest loan or a predator in prison. For many low income people, this is a hole they can’t
There is absolutely no reason that a young person should have their path to success derailed by
a politically motivated criminal justice system. We’re not looking for a place to assign blame. We
respect the police and all the people who protect us from harm. We also respect the rights of
individuals. We hope you will join us in our effort to help age-outs learn to work within the
system and enjoy the freedom that they deserve.
Most of us grew up with someone who would reinforce our sense of well-being. Foster children don't have that. That's why part of the job of an Age-Out Angel is to simply be there for them. Offer a shoulder, cheer them on, give them the support that makes a person feel worthwhile. They may not trust you in the beginning. Can you blame them? They've been let down or outright abandoned by everyone in their lives.
The life of a foster child begins with abuse, neglect, or both. If some of their stories of physical abuse will give you nightmares, how do you think they must feel? Most of the adults who pretended to be their friend either were paid to help them or wanted something in return.
That's what makes you different. You have a heart that is so big it needs to be shared with more than one person. You can be a parent or a friend. And while you will never enable bad or illegal behavior, you will be there to pick up the pieces if they spiral downward. You will be there when they achieve a life milestone. That's what makes you an Angel.