by Shanna Lisberg
The Advocacy Committee hosted a screening of the documentary “From Place to Place” followed by a panel discussion on March 18th. Every year, 30,000 youths age out of foster care, having spent an average of 5 years in the system. “From Place to Place” follows 3 of these teens – Micah, Mandy, and Raif – who have recently aged out of foster care and who are forced to face life with little support. Eventually, Mandy and Raif set out to change the system that raised them and travel to Washington D.C. to tell their stories on Capitol Hill and try to better the system for the generations to come.
“From Place to Place” was an incredibly moving film that highlights the struggles faced by foster youth in general, as well as when they age out of the system. Kids who age out of the foster system are at an extreme disadvantage to the rest of society. By age 21, of those who age out of foster care, 1 in 7 will experience homelessness, 50% will be unemployed, 71% of women become pregnant, and 77% of men will have been arrested.
Mandy wants to go to college but first she has to obtain her GED. Foster children have significantly higher rates of absenteeism at school than their peers, and a foster child loses four to six months of academic progress with each school change. It is estimated that only 3% of foster children who have aged out of the system will obtain a college degree.
Raif lives on the street where he beatboxes for money. He frequently travels the rails when he feels the need for adventure. Many foster children do not have access to important socialization opportunities such as sports and clubs, and access to money for basic needs such as clothing, shoes, and school supplies is limited.
Micah is focused on trying to stay out of jail so he can help his girlfriend, who is pregnant. 20% of males who age out of the system will become career criminals as opposed to 5% of the general population. Research shows that many children in foster care struggle with mental health challenges arising from the trauma they’ve suffered, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Currently, the United States spends 8 billion dollars a year on foster care and there are 420,000 kids in America’s foster care system. Children enter foster care through no fault of their own and for different factors such as neglect, poverty, and abuse. Foster care is designed to be a temporary living situation however, as we saw in the film, many kids do not leave the system until they are required to, at age 18.
After the film, Fredrick Kingston and Mandy Urwiler from The Mockingbird Society led a panel discussion regarding foster care and how we can help. Some of the topics discussed included an emphasis on kin-care and the Extended Foster Care program.
Kinship care is an alternative to foster care, whereby children who have been removed from homes are placed with relatives. The number of children living with a grandparent or other relation has increased considerably in the past years. Kinship care can benefit foster children as it provides increased stability and safety, as well as the ability to maintain family connections and cultural traditions.
The Extended Foster Care program provides an opportunity for teens in foster care to continue to receive support after they turn 18. In order to receive the services, teens must complete a secondary academic or vocational program, or participate in a program or activity designed to promote employment. Studies show that youth that are enrolled in an extended foster care program have higher college attendance, fewer arrests, and are less reliant on public assistance.
Children in foster care has been a long time advocacy focus for the Junior League of Seattle. Here’s how you can help make a difference:
- Become a foster parent. There are currently over 10,000 children in Washington in need of foster homes
- Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate and be a voice for young children in court
- Become a mentor to any young person, including children in foster care
- Donate time or services for kids in foster care
- Donate clothing or other essentials to foster organizations
- Volunteer at a foster organization
- Write letters to or call your elected officials
You can find out more about “From Place to Place” at http://fromplacetoplacemovie.com/
For more information about The Mockingbird Society, visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org