MASON CITY, Iowa – According to the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, approximately 400,000 children are in foster care in the U.S. And 23,000 of those leave the system every year. That means they are officially out on their own, but that doesn’t always mean they are ready.
“I would say probably pushing 40,” says foster parent Emily Alexander.
That’s 40 children, all under foster parent Emily Alexander’s roof at different times over the years. When they are 18 and ready to be out on their own, she says it can be challenging.
“You see them struggle, but they’re able to succeed and make it. They have some fall-backs, but they’re strong enough to be able to get through them,” says Alexander.
Some of that strength could have come from their parents. Alexander says she prepares her kids as much as possible because they may not have had such strong examples early on.
“I try to show them everything that I can. I take them in when I have to renew the license on the car, so they can see that process. We work on getting bank accounts open for them, we talk about budgets,” she says.
Those who prepare foster parents at Iowa KidsNet say this is a very positive thing.
“Having the foster parents work with them on their life skills, everything from cooking and cleaning to budgeting is very helpful,” says Caren Brunsvold with Iowa KidsNet.
She says it’s important that, once these individuals age out of the system that they stay in contact with their foster families, so they know the support is there.
“We’ve had many kids that have left our home. They just call back to ask us questions about recipes, about cooking, they call my husband all the time to ask car questions, about changing the oil or fixing a flat.They just need those support people in their world,” says Brunsvold.
Alexander would agree, in fact she has some motherly advice for those who are leaving the nest.
“Not to shove everybody away, to keep in contact, you know, we’re all here to help them, you know we don’t give up on them,”
And there are plenty of other resources for them to utilize.
“There are different options for kids aging out of the system.They do have scholarship programs that they can access, they have a lot of websites they can go to,” says Brunsvold.
So when that time comes, whether it be college, the military, or joining the workforce it’s important to reach out to these support systems.
“Oh there’s some struggles.Some typical things they may go through, but hopefully with the right supports in there, they’re able to get back on their feet and go on the right path,” she says.
Here are some links to online resources and support systems.
If you’re interested in fostering children, Iowa KidsNet would love to hear from you:1.800.243.0756 or visit: https://www.iowakidsnet.com/content/i-want-adopt-0