TOPEKA – Currently, there are more than 900 youth in Kansas foster care who are 16 or older. Every year, approximately 350 youth age out of foster care with no family to call their own. Older youth in foster care around the state are wearing blue wrist bands today, to stand together, calling attention to the need for adoptive families of older youth. Band Together Day is also a time to highlight the important ways the community can support youth as they age out of foster care.
This year, the Independent Living Program of the Kansas Department for Children and Family (DCF) distributed more than 3,000 blue wristbands, which read “Support Youth in Care” to promote awareness of the challenges that face youth who reaches the age of 18 without being adopted.
Those who age out of care must transition into adulthood without permanent parents to guide them. While most of these youth have experienced the guidance of effective foster parents, they still often must navigate their young adult years alone.
“Coming out of the system, youth tend to have a lot of fear and uncertainty,” said Stormy Lukasavage, a Washburn University student in the Independent Living program. “Others just didn’t learn what to do and make bad choices. I see a lot of kids who come out of foster care and end up homeless. They need better life-planning advice and support.”
Band Together Day is an annual event to recognize the need to support older youth in foster care, as well as those who have recently aged out of foster care. It is held on May 20 every year, to celebrate the formation of the Kansas Youth Advisory Council (KYAC). KYAC was formed 16 years ago. It is an active advocate for older youth in foster care and those who age out of the Kansas foster care system.
The DCF Independent Living program currently serves more than 800 young adults, ages 18 to 23. By hosting a computer camp that teaches tech skills and supplies the youth with a computer, summer youth conferences that highlight independent living and career launching skills, and other seminars, Independent Living prepares Kansas foster youth for the transition to adulthood.
“These youth are at a crossroads in their lives, a very influential period of transition,” said Independent Living Program Manager Stacy Tidwell, “Our programs can have a huge impact on them to guide them to success and to prevent them from coming back into the system under some negative circumstance.
“You don’t quit parenting your own biological child at 18, and we wouldn’t ever let these youth in foster care go without trying to be there for them in every way possible in their young adult years.”
Enthusiasm statewide for the Independent Living Program is growing, said Tidwell.
Governor Sam Brownback and DCF are developing a mentoring program for older foster youth that will launch later this summer.
In June, the Topeka Walmart will host a job-readiness training program and job fair for Independent Living youth.
Foster Care Independent Living Statistics:
• There are currently 6,685 children in foster care in Kansas.
• DCF serves approximately 800 young adults in the Independent Living program.
• Every year, approximately 350 youth age out of the Kansas foster care system.
• Nationwide more than 23,000 young people age out of foster care annually.
To be a foster parent you must:
• Be at least 21
• Pass background checks
• Have sufficient income
• Participate in a family assessment
• Complete training
• Obtain sponsorship
• Complete first aid training
• Be licensed by DCF
Governor Sam Brownback
meets Zachary Reed at a proclamation signing in April, to designate May 20
as Band Together Day.
DCF staff support youth
in care by participating in Band Together Day.