What Is Aging Out?

Young people age out of foster care when they have reached the maximum age the state will support them in the foster system. In some states, aging out occurs at 18, while in others it is 21. This happens when states have failed to reunite the youth with their families or to place them in permanent homes.

This interview with Dr. John DeGarmo provides an overview of aging out. The video is about 24 minutes long and is packed with great information. He answers questions about what aging out of foster care means, why youth end up aging out of care, the challenges they face when they age out, three key things that can be done to help prepare the youth for independence, and different ways people who want to help can help.

Statistics about Aging Out (from the Annie E. Casey Foundation):

  • Each year, about 23,000 young people leave foster care at 18 or 21 years of age.
  • Only 58% will graduate from high school by age 19 (compared with 87% of all 19-year-olds).
  • More than 20% will become homeless
  • Within two years of leaving the foster care system, 25% will be involved in the justice system.
  • About 70% of young women will become pregnant by 21.
  • At the age of 24, only half are employed.
  • Fewer than 3% will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared with 28% of all 25-year-olds).

The statistics are grim, but there has been some positive movement since 2001 due to the efforts of the growing number of support programs that are trying to improve the outcomes for these youth:

  • The percentage of 18-year-olds who report having a high school diploma and post-secondary experience has increased.
  • The rate of age-appropriate employment has gone up.

Source: Pr , Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative / Annie E. Casey Foundation
Source: http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/extending-foster-care-to-18.aspx