At the age of 18, young adults in foster care age out of the system. In some but not all states, they have the option to remain in care until they are 21. Services for young adults who are or have been in foster care, such as independent living and housing assistance programs, typically last until age 21 as well, with some now extending to age 23. Beyond that cutoff of 21 (or 23) is a dearth of services. There are a few transition age youth programs that work with young people to 26, but they are more limited in their scope.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we do not have an age limit. We recognize that a young person may not be ready to pursue career or education goals until they are older than 18, 21, or 23. We know that “life” may make the education process longer, particularly when children and additional responsibilities are involved. And we are privileged to be able to help our Fellows without the constraints of age or time. We are a support no matter what.
To be a part of that support, visit https://www.rjleonardfoundation.org/ to learn more and get involved.
On July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline changed its number to 9-8-8. The streamlined three digit number (previously a 10-digit 800 number) is available to everyone in the United States. Those who call, text or chat will be connected to a trained counselor who is available to listen, support and connect to resources, as needed.
Since its inception, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reports that it has proven to help individuals experiencing mental health crises “feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed and more hopeful.”
No matter your experiences today or in the past, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is three digits you should know, share and utilize. You cannot predict how mental health may affect you and your loved ones in the future, but you can be prepared.
Jumping to Judgment
It is easy to jump to judgment. In fact, it can be difficult not to, particularly when an individual is making choices you never would or you know they should not. This often comes up in Mentoring, as for example a Fellow struggling financially makes a large, seemingly unnecessary purchase or finds fault with a job they just started.
However, in these moments of judgment, we rarely take the time to consider the whole picture, the whole person. Why was the purchase made? What does it mean to the Fellow? Is the conflict at work legitimate or are there underlying issues - past trauma - that may impact decisions. And what else is going on? What is taking up space in this person’s every day that might not leave room for other concerns. Just because an issue is standing out to you, doesn’t mean it is to them.
That doesn’t mean that a Mentor (or anyone) cannot address questionable actions, but it does mean that they should not do so rashly. The short gasp of judgment should be followed by a deep breath of learning and understanding. Only when we take time to see the whole person - past, present and future - can we truly connect and support them.
Calls for change
In the UK, a documentary was released this week discussing the foster care system in Wales and the use of temporary placements like hostels. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke has continued to point to the state’s child welfare system (as a part of his campaign) as something that needs to change to truly protect youth. All over the world, media, politicians, individuals and organizations are calling for change, for improvement to systems that are meant to help children but too often fall short.
Yet, it feels like these calls also fall short, never quite making it to the point of action. They reveal or remind us of what is wrong but don’t necessarily point to a solution or next step. We must remember that awareness can never be the end goal. It is the starting point.
For real change to be made, we must contact our legislators - state and national, work with community organizations to plan and implement meaningful programming, and continually look for (and act upon) ways to help.
Learning is crucial. But utilizing our knowledge is even more important.