Unlike many of their peers who will continue to receive financial assistance from parents, emancipated foster youth find themselves thrown into the world of adulthood with no safety net and little knowledge of how or where to go for help. This is compounded by the inability to secure a job that results in enough income -- if they can find a job at all -- to cover their basic needs of food and housing.
Faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, these youth often give up, plunging themselves into homelessness and a life on the streets. Eleven years of research published between 1990 and 2011 indicates that as much as 36% of emancipated foster youth become homeless, compared to 4% of all youth aged 18 to 26 years nationwide. Homelessness immediately increases the vulnerability and risk of these young men and women becoming victims of not only homelessness, but sexual exploitation and being drawn into a life of crime.
The risk factors for emancipating youth falling "off the grid" and into homelessness and hopelessness are many:
Poor reading skills, course failures and incompletes, and subsequent low GPAs create a high risk of dropping out of high school;
Racism, making the risk of homelessness 1.8 times more likely for youth of color;
Emancipated youth with children are over two times as likely to become homeless;
Youth with a history of homelessness or needing housing assistance have two times the risk;
A history of changing schools often makes a factor of 2 times as likely to become homeless.
More than one foster care placement increased likelihood of homelessness by 1.5 times; and
A history of recidivism increases risk by 150%.
How can we best combat these risks? By creating a safety net of services -- free of charge and easily accessible -- for emancipating foster youth:
Tutoring for high school students, with a focus on reading and comprehension skills that will allow them more success in all subject areas and help them achieve graduation;
Mentoring that focuses on not only supporting success at school, but developing leadership skills and promoting a sense of self-worth and confidence;
Information and guidance towards higher education, including college visits, identifying college majors that align with their natural talents and meet their dreams of success, tutoring, and emotional support through mentoring;
Job training, including how to find a good job, complete a job application, employer expectations, and skills training programs;
Housing assistance, including scholarships for college dorm stays and connecting emancipating youth with viable and safe options for shelter; and
Providing other basic needs, including food, clothing, and personal items free of charge.
Ruby's Foster Village was created specifically to address these needs, and we hope you will join us on our quest to empower and support these youth who so desperately need our help. By supporting our most vulnerable youth, together we can help reduce the likelihood of poverty and homelessness for these young men and women leaving foster care.