BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — COVID-19 creates special challenges for everyone, but for teens aging out of foster care, it means extra complications.
It’s a grave concern particularly during the time of a pandemic because where do those kids go if they are aging out? How do they shelter in? Where do they shelter in? How do they get their meals?SHAREN FORD, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTIONS DIRECTOR
When it comes to foster care, aging out under normal circumstances is already tough, but COVID-19 can make it even tougher.
Focus on the Family Foster Care and Adoptions Director Sharen Ford said she’s recently been talking to people at both federal and local levels about the difficulties young people aging out of the foster care system are now facing.
“When you think of businesses where young people typically get a job — McDonald’s, other kinds of restaurants — those jobs aren’t there for them right now,” Ford said. “It’s really important that the government takes an inward look and says, ‘okay these kids really can’t age out at this point in time.’“
Ford said the struggles of finding an income to provide for themselves during this time could cause an influx of homelessness among this population.
God forbid that they would get sick, where would they be?SHAREN FORD, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTIONS DIRECTOR
According to the National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, one in four will be forced to endure homelessness within four years of leaving foster care — but Arkansas Department of Human Services Transitioning Youth Service Specialist Crystal Jones said there’s a lot of resources out there to try and help combat this.
“Of course we try to have those conversations early on about just establishing those life long connections,” Jones said.
There are many things that youth growing up in traditional family settings have access to, those kids in foster care do not, like — housing, car insurance, or even a good support system.
“Our doors and telephones are always open for them in case they ever hit a bump in the road,” Jones said.
That’s why in a time like this, it’s even more important to make sure their needs are met.
If they do ever experience being at risk for being homeless or [are] actually in a position where they are homeless, we do get those calls and we do try to assist them the best way we can.CRYSTAL JONES, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TRANSITIONING YOUTH SERVICE SPECIALIST
“Everyone is not called to be a foster parent or an adoptive parent, but we are all called to do something,” Ford said.