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You’re on your Own, Kid

Barbara Bensoussan

Foster care can provide warmth and security for children growing up in unstable, chaotic homes. But what happens when these children reach adulthood, and are tossed out of the system?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Remember that scary  but exhilarating feeling of turning 18? Suddenly you’re legally an adult — just without any adult skills or experience under your belt yet. People expect you to start making decisions that will determine the course of your life — which yeshivah, seminary, or college to attend, what sort of shidduch to seek. Most young people have parents on hand to advise and support them as they choose the course of their lives. And if plans don’t work out, parents serve as the fallback as the children regroup and reevaluate. But not every young adult has had the good fortune to grow up in his parents’ home. Even in our own circles, children have been removed from their natural parents’ homes and placed in foster care, where their day-to-day dealings are with parents who have no biological or long-term legal ties to them. When these young people turn 18, their foster parents no longer bear any obligation to care for them, nor receive money for their support. (If foster children pursue higher education, they may remain in the system until age 21.) In the secular world, this usually means that foster children are turned out into the world and abruptly expected to live independently.

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