Struggles of aging-out foster youth in focus as holidays approach
The holidays can be a hard time for foster care youth, especially young people who have recently aged out of the system. Ivy Smith, who is chair of the Idaho Foster Youth Advisory Board, was herself part of the foster care system.
"It's a very emotionally taxing time of year," said Smith, "especially when you've just aged out of the foster care system. It can feel very lonely. It's almost like you start feeling like it's you against the world."
Smith said aging out of the system at any time brings challenges that many don't anticipate. She said while most people look forward to the day, they also have to figure out ways to build adult skills.
"Meaning like how to file my taxes and taking care of myself, basically," said Smith, "Those are all those kinds of skills that I wish I had help with before I had turned 18, but I was pretty much kind of thrown into the deep end and was told sink or swim."
Smith, who graduated high school at age 17 to enroll at Boise State University, said having a job was important once she was out of the system. She's now an administrative specialist for the City of Boise mayor's office.
This year, Idaho lawmakers passed a bill that extends support for foster care youth from age 18 to 21. Smith said this is an important adjustment, especially with many young people aging out of the system without ever having had a job before.
She said it can be a struggle to find an affordable place to live.
"I know that across the nation many cities are experiencing a housing crisis," said Smith, "but this is especially true for foster youth."
Smith said the bar shouldn't be set so low for young people who are in, or have been in, foster care.
"They have so many trials and tribulations that they're going through," said Smith, "but to only believe in them to hit a certain point and not wish that they could go further is, in my mind, just such a disservice."
There are about 450,000 children in foster care nationwide, including about 2,000 in Idaho