Atlanta Children’s Foundation: Aging out of foster Care

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Aging out of foster care at the age of 18 or 21 depends on which state you live in.  Aging out means that the state determines that you are now an adult and are capable of taking care of yourself which in most cases, youth discharging from the system are not emotionally, educated enough, nor financially capable of caring for themselves nor sustaining living independently.  

In Georgia youth aging out of foster care is 21, in Illinois it’s 18 and when there are budget cuts, continual support for these youth is first to get cut.  With the support of the Atlanta Children’s Foundation these youth receiving much needed assistance transitioning to living independently.   

Between the two of them, Johnny Manuel and Givonti Youngblood have spent nearly 20 years in foster care.

If that weren’t bad enough, the two of them will have no other choice but to start out anew soon on their own. Totally. The moment they turn 18, children in foster care can either sign themselves out or remain. Once they turn 21, though, their only option is to leave.

Malachi (left), Johnny (center), and Givonti

Short of losing a parent, I can’t think of anything worse than turning 21 and finding yourself completely alone.

For most of us, the transition to adulthood is a gradual process. Not only do we still get to enjoy the emotional support of parents and other family members, we can count on their financial backing as well and well past the age of 18.

For foster kids like Johnny and Givonti, though, life is far different. They are expected to make it on their own long before the vast majority of their peers and long before they are prepared to live as independent adults.

That’s a huge problem, according to Robert Willis, executive director of the Atlanta Children’s Foundation, a local nonprofit that works to provide stability to children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected.

For Youngblood, who will turn 21 soon, and Manuel, who will soon be 20, that has meant the difference between having someone to lean on and being completely alone.

Givonti was placed in foster care in 2012 when his uncle and legal guardian since age 3 suddenly died of a stroke.

With no one to turn to, he was ushered into a group home before moving into the Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur, where he has spent the past three years.

It all ends soon. Givonti’s 21st birthday is Jan. 13. He can remain at the children’s home until the last day of the month.

His father, who was recently released from prison and whom he’s met only once, has promised to let him move in until he can get his footing.

“He’s giving me six months to a year, which I think is all I need,” Givonti said, casting his eyes downward.

Johnny, 19, said he will remain at the children’s home until his 21st birthday, too, but after that, he has no idea where he’ll live. But he has plans. He recently landed an internship with YearUp and hopes to attend college.

It’s a life most of us can’t even imagine, but when children can’t be reunited with their parents or another family member, this is what happens. Uncertainty.

For the full article:  AJC by Gracie Bonds


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