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Aging out of Adoption, page 2

When the state takes custody of a child, that boy or girl will remain in foster care until they are adopted or turn 18. For about one thousand kids every year in Ohio, that magical 18th birthday that makes them an adult, arrives before a new family does. According to David Larsen of the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, many of these teenagers who "age out" of the system, often "age into" major problems...

Larsen: No question at all, kids who leave care at the age of 18 are at high risk for homelessness. They're at high risk for substance abuse and the damaging effects of substance abuse. Pregnancy? No question, amongst the young women that leave custody, it's a risk. There's a lot of opportunities for kids to get in trouble in the world, and kids who have grown up in the foster care system and who do not have a solid family base to fall back on, wind up in trouble with the law, and wind up not having enough to eat, and not having a steady job.

Child welfare experts say even the valedictorian at your local high school would have a tough time if you told them on their 18th birthday that they now had to get a job, find their own apartment, secure their own health care, and figure out their taxes, transportation, banking, budgets, meals and possibly childcare. John Tuleta is the program administrator for Applewood Services in Cleveland, which runs a program that tries to teach young men in foster care how to do all of that...

Tuleta: With the people that are in foster care and wards of the county, they're dealing with poor family backgrounds, they're dealing with a lot of abuse and neglect issues, there's a large number of kids that have learning disabilities, behavioral problems, chemical dependency issues, the cards are stacked against them. So realistically, to tell them, "OK, now your 18, you've been in all these placements your whole life, but in our society 18 means you're an adult, good luck, have a good life," we're really setting them up for failure in society.

pictured from L to R: John Tuleta, Lemuel Steware, Applewood Centers

But not all the kids who graduate from foster care end up in trouble. Twenty one year old Kristi Frazier spent her teen years in foster care in Cincinnati, and is now studying education at Cincinnati State and Technical College. She says what kept her from ending up like many other foster care graduates was a caring foster home, and Hamilton County's independent living program...

Frazier: They teach you budget skills, how to cook, paying your bills, how to go through a lease and know that everything is fair to much as they can teach you before you actually have the experience of living on your own.


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