Aiding our forgotten foster youth

In 2013, it was estimated that there were only 13 homes available to 293 pregnant and parenting foster youth throughout Los Angeles County. This alarming low number of available homes to some foster youth contributes to the ever-growing numbers of the intergenerational cycle of poverty America’s foster youth face. Without genuine support and guidance, these young emerging adults face difficulty in transitioning into the responsibilities of adulthood and parenting. In the recent years, the media has focused on the corruption experienced in small cities such as Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, and Maywood. In doing so, other important topics that affect the community have received no attention. Transitional youth need caring adults in their lives that are able to provide the emotional support and guidance that may have lacked throughout their upbringing in the broken foster care system. These vulnerable youth need more than just daytime club centers where they can spend time during the day. They are in need of the backbone support of a family or caring adults who will help them rise out of shadows society has placed them in.

Money will definitely not solve their problems, but providing a designated adult to help transition into a new period of their lives can make a huge difference. Dismissing the issues foster youth face will only advance into a life of poverty and emotional turmoil for these vulnerable teens and children.

The key to improve the lives of this specific population is to fill in the missing pieces that other foster care programs have left out. It is essential to break the patterns that contribute to intergenerational cycles of poverty, abuse, neglect, and foster care. Being displaced in society most of these transitional youth do not know about the programs that exist for them. With minimal knowledge about public welfare programs foster youth attempt to survive with less than basic tools. Yet, when things go wrong they are targeted for blame and are viewed as irresponsible individuals. Without consistency and support most of these young adults forfeit the few benefits they have.

The United States’ child and public welfare programs are not the best in the world, but it does have the potential to become their best. When focus is placed on responsibility and accountability, then perhaps the foster care system has a chance at improving in the areas it has failed to improve. Political agendas must be changed to include foster care issues as human rights issues. Providing minimal services will not improve the lives of foster youth. Political figures, law enforcement, and social workers need to start working together to create effective programs, instead of using them to point fingers when things do not improve. Proper attention must be given to the issues that surround the foster care system in order to increase the overall resiliency of foster youth.

Jorge Salazar, of Bell, is working toward a master’s in social work and aspires to work with foster children, youth, and families.



Published: May 7, 2015 - Volume 14 - Issue 04