Beyond the Foster Care System: The Future for Teens

Beyond the Foster Care System: The Future for Teens

Beyond the Foster Care System: The Future for Teens

Beyond the Foster Care System: The Future for Teens


Each year tens of thousands of teenagers are released from the foster care system in the United States without high school degrees, homes, or strong family relationships. Two to four years after discharge, half of these young people still do not have either a high school diploma or equivalency degree, and fewer than ten percent enter college. Nearly a third end up on public assistance within fifteen months, and eventually more than a third will be arrested or convicted of a crime.
In this richly detailed and often surprising exploration of the foster care system, Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff argue that the existing foster care system sets teens up to fail by inadequately preparing them for adult life. They contend that the primary goal of foster care for teenagers should be preparation for a fully productive adult life, and that current policies and practice are misguided.
The authors draw on their fifteen years of experience working with teens and the foster care system to introduce new ways to empower teens to be responsible for themselves and to identify and develop their potential. They also explore what sorts of resources-legal, financial, and human-will need to come from inside and outside the system to ensure that more teens reach successful independence. Ultimately, Krebs and Pitcoff argue that change must include the participation of caring communities of volunteers who want to see disadvantaged youth succeed, as well as the use of creative approaches such as the Socratic Method to help teens to take control of their lives.
Bringing together a series of inspiring, real-life accounts, Beyond the Foster Care System introduces readers to a number of dynamic young people who have participated in the Youth Advocacy Center's programs. Their stories demonstrate that alternatives to the standard way of providing foster care are not only imaginable, but possible. With the practical improvements Krebs and Pitcoff outline, teens can learn the skills of effective self-advocacy, become better prepared for the transition to independence, and avoid becoming the statistics that foster care has so often produced in the past.


Selina rushed from her last college class of the day to arrive on time. Hurrying down the block, she noticed Gloria, a young woman standing on the sidewalk outside the imposing law school building. Gloria looked uncertainly at the main entrance doorway, unsure if she belonged there.

[You here for the graduation?] Selina asked.

Gloria didn't look surprised, but her answer seemed a bit cautious. [Think so.]

[Come on, I'll go in with you,] Selina said with a smile. She knew how imposing the building looked to this girl, how it represented another world, although it was not that far from where either of them had grown up. As incongruous as the situation might have appeared, a supposedly troubled teenager from foster care honored and celebrated at a famous law school, it was happening in just thirty minutes.

In the polished marble lobby, Selina asked a uniformed security guard where they should go. Together they found the correct room, which had wood paneling, glass covered bookshelves, and dark oil paintings on the walls. Gloria momentarily hesitated to enter the room, and then she broke into a cautious yet uncontrollable smile of pride. This was her graduation.

Soon two dozen teens surrounded Selina and Gloria. Most lived in temporary foster homes and group homes. They had survived the traumas of separation from their families, movement from one placement to another, and countless other painful experiences. One might expect they would be thank-

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