Friday, June 17, 2005

Eighteen and Out. The State of Florida has a foster care program as most, if not all, states do. Children in this program are either orphans or are "dependent" children whose parents cannot take care of them or that the state will not allow to take care of them. Some of these children are kept in foster homes, but many are institutionalized, that is, they live in such places as The Children's Home Society.

At age 18, they are no longer children under Florida law. They are adults. And they are cast out of the foster care system when they reach "adulthood". Can you imagine that? They are in foster care in the first place because they have no family capable of helping them appropriately. And then, at age 18, they are on their own.

This came to my attention several months ago at a meeting of the board of directors of the Dade County Bar Association. The DCBA supports a very good legal aid clinic, and the director at one of our meetings described to us a day-long program in which she had participated with several other agencies and corporations. The day-long program was for these foster children who had just turned 18. The purpose of the program was to help orient them to the "real" world. For example, there were people in the real estate world who gave them a very short course on renting an apartment. Bank of America had a representative who not only helped them open a bank account on the spot, but also dropped in $100 for each child.

Last night at the Youth for Christ board meeting, one of the staff members spoke to us about her work at the Children's Home Society, the agency that I mentioned above. This agency allows her to come in two evenings a week and talk to teenagers about Jesus Christ. (The teenagers are not forced to attend her classes, of course; its up to them.) She has had quite a bit of success. But she also spoke of the "18 and out" problem.

She said that many of these children have no where to go, except back to the family from which the welfare agency extracted them. She gave an example of one child, who had been given a stipend upon "graduating" from the CHS, returning to the home in which the parents were "crackheads". She said that within a week, the parents had stolen everything that had been given this young "adult". Although not part of her ministry, this staff person is mentoring four young women who have reached 18, giving them some guidance as to how to deal with the real world. No wonder such children are thirsty for the gospel.

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