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PCHAS has several residences for young adults preparing to leave the foster care system. Alisa Griffiths, director of Missouri residential programs, tells us what it means to “age out.”
How are the challenges of these young people different from those of youth not in foster care?
These youth have often experienced trauma resulting from childhood abuse and neglect. This may lead to poor behavior management, poor impulse control and, sometimes, mental illness above and beyond what a family member or foster home can handle. It’s common that they have difficulty with functioning at school, in the community and in normal age-appropriate activities. On top of all this, our kids are trying to navigate their personal relationships and schoolwork. They’re learning all of the skills to be a successful adult, just like their peers, but without the benefit of a safe and consistent upbringing.
What happens to teens who “age out” without a family support system?
It happens a lot. Girls leaving foster care on their own are likely to get pregnant: 71% of them are pregnant by age 21. They face higher rates of unemployment, public assistance and involvement in the child welfare system.
Only 58% of kids aging out will graduate from high school, compared to 87% of their peers. Less than 3% will have earned a college degree by age 25, compared to 28% of their peers.
The good news is that PCHAS gives these youth the stability to finish school. At Ashley House in Springfield, for example, all of our residents who were eligible for high school graduation in 2020 graduated or completed the equivalent, called the HiSet. We also had 16 residents eligible to work and they all found employment.
How does PCHAS work with these young people?
Our youth live in houses or apartments and are supervised by PCHAS staff. We provide the structure and therapeutic resources of a residential facility in a home-like environment.
We created a rubric to assess a person’s capacity for living independently. Do they have a bank account? Can they make a doctor’s appointment? Can they cook? PCHAS will focus our therapeutic and educational resources on the needs of each young person. We work with them to build self-sufficiency, meet their individual goals and develop options for housing, employment and education.
We train our staff in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) which utilizes three principles: attachment to promote empowering to address physical needs, connecting to address attachment needs, and correcting to address fear-based trauma behaviors and build healthy coping mechanisms. TBRI is effective and based on evidence and fits very well with our philosophy of compassion.
The average length of stay in these programs is nine months to a year.