“You’re going onto campus and seeing other people who live very differently than maybe you grew up when you were in foster care.”
The number of children transitioning out of the foster care system has dropped significantly in Massachusetts, according to a new report.
The number of teens age 14 and older leaving foster care in the Commonwealth fell from 48% in 2006, to 28% in 2021.
Grey Hilliard-Koshinsky, program manager for the Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni, said foster youth transitioning to college on their own face unique challenges in feeling as if they belong.
“You’re going onto campus and seeing other people who live very differently than maybe you grew up when you were in foster care,” Hilliard-Koshinsky explained. “We all need people who have been through what we have to know that success is possible.”
Hilliard-Koshinsky pointed to Bridgewater State University, where a special housing program helps foster youth without a place to go during school breaks, and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, where the Navigators Club helps foster youth in need of additional academic and social support.
Nationally, child welfare systems find families for fewer than half of teenagers and young adults in foster care, leaving many students to rely on school counselors to help them navigate the college application process.
Todd Lloyd, senior policy associate for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said extending foster care to people after age 18 offers them a greater chance of success.
“We really encourage states to consider ways that they can encourage young people to remain in foster care after the age of 18 If they don’t have a permanent family,” Lloyd emphasized.
While Massachusetts allows young people to remain in the foster care system until age 22, Lloyd acknowledged very few actually use extended foster care. He stressed foster youth deserve the help of supportive adults to ensure a successful transition to adulthood.
Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.