Volunteering with kids aging out of foster care makes a difference. According to a report done by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, as of September 30, 2019, there were 423,997 children in foster care in the United States. Children are placed in foster care as a temporary measure, when this is seen as the safest and best solution for the child at the time. However, once children age out of foster care at 18, they often make an abrupt transition. They go from being a dependent to being a full-fledged adult with housing, employment, health insurance,
clothing, food, and more to worry about all on their own. Finding a job and the money to support themselves entirely on their own is difficult for anyone. No one should have to figure it out by themselves.
Fortunately, the Collaborative Care Act in Indiana serves as an extension of the foster care system. This program enables children to navigate this stage of early adulthood with additional support until the age of 21. According to the Indiana Department of Children Services, they can be placed in their own apartment/ housing, shared apartment/ housing, a host home, foster home, college dorm or other out-of-home placement where they receive assistance while completing their education or starting their career.
Through the Collaborative Care program, the young adult receives support with their rent & utilities, clothing allowance, assistance in building a supportive network, continued services (therapy, psychiatric care, etc.), health insurance, and case management. This additional support with finances and physical/mental health can give young adults the tools they need to complete their education or find success in their first job.
Who is by their side in all this?
Although this program grants young adults financial and logistical support, it is not designed to address emotional wellbeing. Who is there when they have questions or need advice? Who is there when they need a shoulder to lean on?
Children eligible for the Collaborative Care program can opt to have their CASA volunteer help them during this transition. Oftentimes, most do. As someone who is knowledgeable about the child’s case and has stuck by their side for months or even years, CASA volunteers are a safe place for these young adults to turn to while going through a huge life change. CASAs can act as a mentor, friend and support, helping these individuals navigate adulthood. And all too often, CASA’s are the only constant these young people have. Case managers, placement settings, and other people in their lives often come and go. However, CASAs can make a substantial difference in a child’s life just by being there.
Ultimately, a CASA can be the reason a young adult is successful in getting their feet on the ground and achieving full independence once they have completed their education or found a steady job.
How can you help?
Although they are legally adults, these individuals are just beginning to experience the real world on their own. They need support to be successful. It takes a special person to advocate for a young adult and CASA is always in need of those people. By being a CASA volunteer, you can change the lives of local youth, setting them up for success. Not only are you volunteering with kids, you are also making a tangible difference in their lives. You will see the transformation from a child with a difficult past to an independent adult pursuing their passion.
Check out Monroe County CASA to see if you meet the eligibility requirements and apply for our next training class.
Written by: Abby Hummels