Aging Out of the System

During the time children are in out-of-home care, the state is legally responsible to provide for their physical, psychological and financial wellbeing. For example, medical coverage is provided by Medicaid and foster families receive monthly checks to help cover the costs of caring for the child. However, adolescents who are not returned home, adopted or have legal custody transferred to a relative or alternative caregiver will eventually age out of the system, whether voluntarily or involuntarily at which point much of the state's support, financial and otherwise, abruptly ends. For a number of states, this occurs at the age of 18, which many experts maintain is far too early. Both the World Health Organization and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have concluded that adolescence lasts into the mid-twenties. In the U.S., roughly half of our young adults aged 18-24 live at home, and their parents provide guidance and financial assistance at crucial moments during the transition to independence, such as for tuition, apartment security deposits, car insurance, etc. The number of adolescents who age out each year are estimated to total between 20,000 to 25,000 nationwide. Though there are success stories, the absence of a continued safety net can have dire consequences for many of these youths, as per the following national statistics: