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Programs target older foster youth

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For someone who has always had a supportive family – whether that means growing up with caring biological or adopted parents or permanent guardians – it’s easy to take for granted that if a car breaks down, if emergency funds are suddenly needed, or if there’s a holiday or vacation coming up, someone will be there.

But for foster youth who are about to age out of the system or have already done so, there often is no support system. That decreases one’s chance of getting a good education and increases the likelihood that the former foster youth will end up homeless or become involved in illegal activity and be arrested after aging out.

To increase the number of success stories, the Department of Child Services and the Indiana Office of Guardian Ad Litem/Court Appointed Special Advocate have been focusing more on older foster youth through programs and outreach efforts.

Why older youth?

Not only do older foster youth have different needs than younger foster children, if older youth don’t have the right guidance, their futures, statistically, are also at risk.

Nationally, about 25,000 people between the ages of 18 and 21 leave foster care each year, according to statistics from Casey Family Programs. In Indiana in 2009, approximately 435 children in foster care turned 18 and faced aging out of the system without a permanent family, according to the Indiana Office of GAL/CASA.

About 25 percent of former foster youth nationwide have reported they were homeless within two to four years of leaving foster care, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
 

dunn-leslie-mug Dunn

As far as educational opportunities, they are more than twice as likely not to have a high school diploma or GED as their peers, and they are 14 times more likely not to complete college than the general population, according to a Chapin Hall Midwest Study.

The unemployment rate among foster care alumni was 47 percent, according to that same study, and only half of young adults have medical insurance after aging out of foster care. While in foster care, youth are eligible to receive Medicaid benefits, but they’re at risk of losing this coverage when they age out.

Youth who have aged out of foster care also have a significant chance of reentering the court system, this time as defendants. Of youth who participated in the Chapin Hall Midwest Study, at age 21, 30 percent reported they had been arrested, 15 percent reported they had been convicted of a crime, and 29 percent reported they had been incarcerated.

Regarding mental health, about 25 percent of foster care alumni experience post traumatic stress disorders, while only 4 percent of the general population experience PTSD, according to a Northwest Foster Care Alumni Survey.

Making a difference

To help change these outcomes, the National Court Appointed Special Advocates program started a pilot program called Fostering Futures which trains volunteer CASAs on the needs of older foster youth ages 14 to 21. The Indiana Office of GAL/CASA is one of 16 sites around the country that started the training program this summer; it wraps up in March.

Directors of CASA offices around the state suggested volunteers to Teresa Christopher, program director for Indiana Office of GAL/CASA. Using what they learned at the training, the 76 CASA volunteers have so far advocated for more than 100 youth in Indiana. Another 25 CASA volunteers will be trained early next year, Christopher said.


christopher-teresa-mug Christopher

Part of the program is a “possible selves tree.” Branches reflect how the youth is perceived, typically showing how the person sees himself as a person and as a student.

Off of the branches are smaller branches. One youth included “stay in school, graduate, stay out of trouble,” to be successful as a student. To be successful as a person, he wrote “be outgoing, a good friend, kind, and sincere,” Christopher said while reading one of the trees.

The trees also have roots, which are what “help to stabilize the tree or to make them strong,” like an emotional support system, Christopher said. Negative influences are represented as rocks or lightning rods, and these could include things like using drugs or making bad choices when it comes to friends. She said in some cases, the rocks and lightning rods could be negative influences from the person’s family, such as an abusive parent.

Christopher has heard that the children, for the most part, are appreciative of the opportunity to go over what they need to know to succeed. A few children, however, have been apprehensive about the process, usually because they are unsure what their roots are if they don’t have much of a support system in place.

Leslie Dunn, director of Indiana Office of GAL/CASA, added this gets to the heart of the role of the CASA, even when the youth have multiple case managers and others who don’t necessarily focus on these issues while working with them.

“This is the kind of thing parents would talk to their children about, but many of these children don’t have someone to do that with them,” she said.

In addition to filling out the tree diagram, the CASA volunteer will complete a needs assessment, including resources for the young person in the categories of education, employment, housing, life skills, supportive relationships, community resources, and physical and behavioral health, Christopher added.

Another way the Indiana Office of GAL/CASA is helping older foster youth is through an initiative that promotes more involvement by these young people in their own cases, including family team meetings, permanency planning, and court proceedings.

Dunn said there has been resistance in some counties – the place where the decision is ultimately made as to how involved the youth are in their own cases. She said that one former foster youth told her that because this was about his future, he should be able to attend court hearings.

For youth who can’t attend court but still want to participate, Dunn added Indiana GAL/CASA has shared a sample “Youth Report to the Court” form for county CASA programs to use if they want to do something similar.

Tiffany Coleman, who as a foster youth lived with her half-sister’s aunt from the time she was 16 until she aged out of the system, agreed that older foster youth have different issues and said when she was in the system, it was often difficult.

She explained that seemingly simple things, like getting a driver’s license, are incredibly difficult as a foster youth. She said she already had her license, but she knew of other older foster children who had difficulty in getting one, mainly because their foster parents didn’t want to sign off for them.

Not having a license in turn affects one’s prospects for employment if they don’t have reliable transportation, she said.

Another difficulty she said former foster youth could face involved the independent living counselor. Because she was moving to Bloomington for college, she had to switch to an independent living counselor in Bloomington. She said by then she knew how to live independently, but could understand that not all 18 year olds understand how to go grocery shopping, pay rent, and pay bills.

She added that even though she was staying with her half-sister’s aunt before college, she didn’t always know if she would be able to stay there over breaks, and she couldn’t always afford to pay a daily rate to stay on campus when the regular dorm she lived in was closed.

To address issues like this, Alishea Hawkins, permanency manager of the Department of Child Services, said she has been working directly with colleges and universities. So far, Ball State University and Ivy Tech campuses in east central Indiana have offered foster youth year-round housing options.

“This can be a huge barrier for many young people, especially for someone at a school farther away from their hometown,” she said.

Hawkins added efforts have always been made to find host families willing to take in college students over school breaks, and there are various independent living funds available for foster youth who have aged out of the system to help pay for rent and other living expenses. While these programs aren’t brand new, she said DCS has been making a bigger push to educate case workers and others who work with foster youth about their existence.

Together, these programs will hopefully make a difference, Dunn said.

“These children may have never had anybody in their life who cared about them. It sounds hokey, but it’s completely serious. … It’s so moving for them to have that person who cares about their future,” she said.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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