By Susan Salmon, Director of LSI Foster Care and Adoption
When families decide to become licensed foster parents, many choose to open their homes solely to younger children. And while these families are providing critical care to hundreds of the most vulnerable children in Iowa, this also makes it more difficult to find loving homes for a population often overlooked: teenagers.
It’s understandable that families might be scared to foster teens. It can be intimidating to care for an older child, but teenagers need just as much love and support as younger children.
In 2018, 204 western Iowa children age 13 and above were referred into foster care. They experienced trauma like abuse or neglect and needed a foster family to lean on during the most difficult time in their lives. But there were not always enough foster homes immediately available, and youth with no foster family are forced to live in a shelter until a suitable, safe home is found for them.
When teens in foster care turn 18, they face a whole new challenge: “aging out” of the system and losing access to many of the resources they depend on. For those who spend their teenage years in a shelter instead of with a foster family, this means they are entering adulthood with no home or support system to turn to for guidance as they navigate college or a first job. More than 23,000 children will age out of foster care in the U.S. every year, and they are at extreme risk of poverty and homelessness.
Teens in foster care need stability and safety, too: someone to teach them to drive, someone to help them practice for the SAT, someone to cheer them on as they walk across the stage at graduation.
Help us ensure that Iowa youth have the love and support they need to build happy, healthy futures. Consider becoming a foster parent to teens.
Visit LSIowa.org/foster to learn more.
(Susan Salmon, Director of LSI Foster Care and Adoption, can be reached at Susan.Salmon@LSIowa.org.)