Defying the odds: Aging out of foster care in Placer County

Published  Aug. 17, 2023

“I was ready to be an adult, even though I wasn’t one.” 

At 13 years old, Ariel (a pseudonym) was placed into foster care. Having already grown up faster than most children, she began a quest for personal independence.

“That was always the thing, get my own place, create my own space, like, my own space,” said Ariel, now in her 30s.

She got a job, worked her way through school, found time for extracurricular activities, and tried her best to get ready for adulthood in any way she could. But as she turned 18 and aged out of foster care, high rents and skeptical landlords seemed destined to have her fall into a path common to former foster youth.

Foster youth often transition into adulthood without the tools and support that they need to thrive, and with a history of abuse or neglect. Foster youth experience disproportionately higher rates of homeless than other youth, with rates ranging from 11% to 38%. They are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. Foster youth who enroll in college are twice as likely to drop out in their first year. Mental health issues, substance abuse and alcohol abuse issues are also challenges that many transition age youth (TAY) face when they exit the foster care system. In Placer, there are currently 42 transition age youth. 

Years ago, recognizing the need, California began directing more resources toward these young people. Social workers are assigned to support transition age youth as they prepare to exit foster care. The Transitional Housing Program Plus was implemented across California to try to better support young people in finding housing options as they exited foster care. For Ariel, this program – now dubbed the HOPE program by participants in Placer County – made the difference. 

In HOPE, youth are provided resources to find housing, and also trained in life skills based on individual needs. Recent HOPE graduates defy the odds: 100% in stable housing and 89% employed. 

With foster care now open to young adults through age 21, and programs like HOPE lasting even longer, there’s more opportunity than ever to help Placer’s young adults get off to the right start. 

Listen to Ariel’s story of how HOPE changed the course of her life in our full podcast, also available on other streaming platforms:

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