I’ve spent nearly 18 years in the New York foster care system. I’m 20 years old, living here in Brooklyn, and out of all my siblings, I’m the only one still in foster care and am currently “transitioning” out into being an independent adult.
While in foster care I have stayed in almost every possible type of placement for a child. I’ve been in foster homes, residential treatment facilities, group homes, 21 days programs, a few respite homes, and I’ve even been hospitalized once. I was physically separated from my four siblings, though we have tried to stay connected.
Although everyone is feeling vulnerable during this COVID-19 epidemic, young people from foster care like me are even more vulnerable. Even in the best of times, leaving foster care to become an adult all on your own is scary. And, young people often don’t have anybody that we can turn to for support.
I consider myself lucky because I have godparents who are helping me. I am grateful there is someone on the end of the phone line that I can call on the days I am feeling anxious.
But my work and employment are disrupted. Although some places are hiring like crazy, it’s difficult to get any gig-work because I am living with a family member with an illness and I don’t want to expose anyone to the virus. I was planning to attend an EMT program, but that’s on hold right now, too.
I worry about the young people exiting foster care who are not as fortunate to have someone who can help them during these difficult days. Youth transitioning from foster care really need more of our support right now. They need Congress to pay attention and find ways to help them right away.
Perhaps most of all, young people who have exited foster care need someone they can call to ask for help, and need someone checking in with them to see if they are ok. Child welfare systems sometimes provide case management resources to help look out for our young adults from foster care. But, without more resources, not everyone can access that help and information.
We can’t forget the young people from foster care during this epidemic, who literally have no one they can call for help.