The foster youth experience begins in trauma.

image-boy-on-trainNo child chooses to be in foster care. A young person’s placement in the foster system necessarily begins with the traumatic experience of being removed from their home and placed in an unfamiliar environment, far from everything familiar that formed their sense of self. Many youth move through multiple placements, and every change can trigger a cycle of trauma.

A life based in trauma is never easy. Youth often act out of this trauma, pushing the boundaries of new environments and relationships and earning labels such as ‘depressed,’ ‘delinquent,’ ‘defiant.’ Their search to replace what has been lost or broken in their childhoods of abuse, neglect, and abandonment can lead to a sense of hopelessness.

And when foster youth ‘age out’ of foster care, they can lose the network of caregivers and social workers who provided for their basic needs. Struggling to face the challenges of adulthood on their own, former foster youth reach lower levels of educational attainment and experience greater rates of homelessness than the general population around them.

Consider these statistics about former foster youth collected by the Jim Casey Initiative:

  • More than one in five will become homeless after age 18
  • Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent of all 19 year olds)
  • 71 percent of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system
  • At the age of 24, only half are employed
  • Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent of all 25 year olds)
  • One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system

Additionally, around 3% of foster youth make it to college. Of those who do, only half graduate.

San Francisco’s unique economic climate places additional pressures on the foster system. The city’s high cost of living makes it difficult for families to afford an extra bedroom in which to house foster youth. As a result, over 60% of San Francisco foster youth are placed outside the city. Shuffled from placement to placement far from the city they call home, foster youth of San Francisco seldom remain in the same school or with the same friends for long. The cycle of loss and transience that all foster youth experience is especially profound in San Francisco.

The statistics are bleak, but the hope is real.

Studies have shown that a consistent, loving adult presence in a young person’s life, for as little as one hour a week, can make a significant difference in helping them defy the statistics above.

image-two-men-at-table-smilingAt Braid Mission we train adults to become mentors who can be that consistent, loving presence in the lives of foster youth. Our mentors develop meaningful, trusting relationships with youth, setting them on the path toward healing from the wounds of foster care.

While the realities of trauma and foster care are both shocking and distressing, you can take hope in the power of Love to make a difference in the life of foster youth.

Learn more about Braid Mission’s team-based, holistic mentoring program to find out how you can change a life today.