Here at Children’s Home Society of Virginia, our work is rooted in 5 core values: Service, Integrity, Collaboration, Compassion and Equity. Equity is ensuring fair treatment, providing equality of opportunity and fair access. Equity does not mean providing everyone the same things, it means providing people with the things they need to be successful. It means acknowledging different needs and ensuring those needs as met in a way that promotes equitable outcomes.
Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it has been becoming isolated from friends and family or putting themselves at-risk as essential workers or a facing a financial hardship. While this, in a way, brings us together as a community to support each other, we need to be conscientious that we are not leaving already vulnerable populations behind as we navigate this crisis. Those vulnerable populations will see a much larger, longer lasting effect of the pandemic. We need to continue to support those individuals throughout this crisis.
Youth who age out of foster care, or exit foster care without a permanent family, are a vulnerable population. Absent a pandemic, 45% of youth who age out of foster care experience economic hardship by age 26, compared to 18% of the general population. The average earnings of youth who age out of foster care are $13,989 at age 26, compared to an average of $32,312 at age 26 for the general population. One in four youth who age out of foster care are homeless by age 21. Less than 3% of youth who age out of foster care have a college degree by age 25.
Put those hard life obstacles in the context of a global pandemic. While we are all facing hardships, many of us are able to work remotely or have a safety net, whether that’s personal savings or family members willing to support us. Many of us have family and friends who are supporting us emotionally and mentally through this crisis. However, many youth who age out of foster care do not have those permanent connections and safety net to help them navigate this crisis. As we hear about many people losing their jobs and being unable to afford to pay the bills, youth who age out of foster care are affected by these same things as well. The difference is they may not have a support system to lean on during incredibly difficult times.
We are grateful at Children’s Home Society of Virginia to have the ability to continue our work supporting vulnerable children and youth, helping them overcome those obstacles and life outcomes and achieve successful independence. We will continue to support youth who age out of foster care throughout this crisis and hope you will join us as a community in continuing to focus on equity and supporting the populations who need our support now more than ever.