On the day of my so-called emancipation, I didn’t have a high school diploma, a place to live, a job, nothing…The day I emancipated—it was a happy day for me. But I didn’t know what was in store. Now that I’m on the streets, I honestly feel I would have been better off in an abusive home with a father who beat me; at least he would have taught me how to get a job and pay the bills.
—Roberta E., Los Angeles
Imagine being in foster care the majority of your life for whatever reason. Imagine that you made it through to 18 years of age and are finally proud to be on your own. You are told you will get a “stipend” of $850 per month until you are 21 as long as you are associated with a program or in school. That’s. It.
This is why we exist. The Faber Ryan Youth Foundation exist to be more than a “safety net” for young people with nowhere to turn.
When children in foster care turn 18, they are, for the most part, on their own. They are called “emancipated” — they are legally adults and free from the foster care system. But many young people leave California’s foster care with no job or income, few educational prospects, and little emotional support or community connections. As a result, for these young people, emancipation can mean nowhere to turn and no place to go but the streets.
In California, 65,000 children and youth are in the foster care system. Each year, more than 4,000 emancipate. Estimates are that somewhere around 20 percent end up homeless. My So-Called Emancipation: From Foster Care to Homelessness for California Youth, examines how the state fails to prevent homelessness from being a predictable outcome for too many youth leaving California’s foster care system. An amazing organization, Human Rights Watch, interviewed youth who had been removed as children from their family homes for abuse, neglect, or abandonment and placed in the care of the state of California. After they left the system, they became homeless. They describe missed opportunities to learn skills, the lack of the ability to support themselves, shortage of second chances when things did not go right, and the fact that no one cared what happened to them. California is failing in an essential duty to children in its care: to prepare them for adulthood and to survive independently. Just as children in state care have a right to be properly housed and fed, their crucial developmental needs should be addressed.
The Faber Ryan Youth Foundation is proud to support nonprofits that reach out to one of the most vulnerable populations.