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The Importance of Adult Connections for Youth Before They Age Out of the Foster Care System

The Importance of Adult Connections for Youth Before They Age Out of the Foster Care System

According to national data, approximately 20.00 youth age out of the foster care system each year without connections to a permanent family. When a teen in foster care turns 18, their participation with the Department of Children and Families changes from mandatory to voluntary. Youth can continue receiving support services including foster care, acquisition of independent living skills, and financial support until they are 23 years old. However, data shows that in 2021, an estimated 77 percent of eligible youth in foster care, ages 14–21 years old, left care without receiving the federally funded services necessary to prepare them for adulthood and independent living.

Our experience working with older youth registered with MARE has taught us that unless there are adults invested in the lives of these young people, many of the resources they are entitled to won’t be utilized. As a result, these youth are more likely to become homeless, be diagnosed with mental health disorders, suffer from substance abuse, and become involved in the juvenile justice system once they are on their own.

Legal permanency, achieved through adoption, is extremely important for us at MARE. However, we also recognize that this is not the only way to provide a sense of belonging, stability, and security for young people.

In addition to legal permanency, we believe that relational permanency is indispensable. Relational permanency is achieved through the quality of a trusted relationship between a youth and at least one adult on whom they can rely. Youth need to develop significant emotional relationships with trusted adults. It is these relationships, whether they are legally defined or not, that provide the sense of belonging and stability they need to thrive.

We believe facilitating, strengthening, and formalizing new or existing relationships between youth and their relatives or other trusted adults is important work. These adults could be former foster parents, teachers, coaches, tutors, mentors, nurses, or therapists who have developed important  connections with them.

If you want to learn more about the challenges faced by youth who exit the foster care system and the ways a connection with an adult can make a difference visit: