Connected by 25: A Plan for Investing in Successful Futures for Foster Youth

Jan 01, 2004
  • Description

The transition from childhood to adulthood is often a precarious journey -- filled with opportunity and risk. Adolescence can be a time of tremendous discovery, growth, and developing independence. With proper guidance and support, young people explore their unique talents and interests; develop knowledge, skills, and aspirations; and acquire the relationships and connections that they will depend upon for a lifetime. Most young people, with the support of their families and community networks, make this transition successfully. Unfortunately, there are also many young people in our communities who lack adequate nurturing, guidance, and support. For these youth, the risks of adolescence often overshadow the opportunities. And for too many, the result is that they enter adulthood with little hope or preparation for a successful future. Developing a strategy for public- and private-sector investments to help youth in foster care become connected by age 25 poses a significant challenge. Foster youth not only have to cope with the trauma of separation from families unable or unwilling to provide proper care, but they also must live within a child protective system that is overburdened and, in many cases, ill-equipped to provide even a basic level of stability, safety, and nurturing. This investment plan calls for government, foundations, community organizations, and individuals to mobilize their energy and resources with a greater focus on the future of foster youth and those aging out of foster care. This is not to deny the urgent need to provide basic protections for those in care. Rather, it is to emphatically assert that it is not enough to address risks and remediate problems; it is also essential to build on individual strengths and develop personal assets in order to help young people acquire the motivation and the means to be successful throughout their lives. Accordingly, this plan outlines five strategies aimed at helping foster youth to achieve economic success, which is a critical building block for future success in a number of fundamental aspects of adult life, including housing, family stability, safety, health, and social well-being. We hope that it leads to increased investments and supportive policies that have a significant positive impact on the future economic wellbeing and financial success of the thousands of young people who spend time in the child welfare system.