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Many Homeless Adults Start their Journey in Foster Care

3/6/2013, 11:39 a.m.

"Young adults, under the best circumstances, don't turn 18 or 21 years old and magically become rational, self-sufficient adults; and a history of trauma, abuse or neglect further impacts their social-emotional development," said Maggie Riden, a DCAYA senior policy analyst at a council oversight hearing. "To achieve lasting stability, this population needs an array of supportive resources ... not defined by age, but by scope of need."

Young people in foster care leave placements due to conflicts, or they seek more familiar surroundings, Riden said.

But, to Ressurrection Graves, reasons for leaving are more ominous. She said national evidence-based studies maintained that 20 to 30 percent of children in foster care are sexually abused, which leads to early emancipation.

"Child sexual abuse has its own set of traumas, which are linked to adult homelessness," said Graves, a child sexual abuse expert and survivor, and a homeless mother for three years. Due to her traumatic experiences Graves, who was raised in the D.C. area, will launch in August a nonprofit that offers alternative shelter solutions for those seeking transitional housing.

"The trauma of being removed from the home causes disruptions, and those build over time," said Nicki Sanders, a Columbia, Md., social worker. "Children in foster care move on average about seven times. They have new schools, rules to follow, values, academic and social challenges. There's instability in the life of a foster child on a consistent basis, in many cases."

This cycle will probably continue for Joyner's children. Her three-year-old daughter is in foster care.

"Our child and family welfare system continues to be a pipeline into homelessness and instability for hundreds of youth each year," Riden added.