Foster Care: Aging Out of the System

Just in Time for Foster Youth gets real about life after foster care.

October 7, 2019

Imagine if, on your 18th birthday, your parents presented you with an empty garbage bag to store your things in, a couple of hundred bucks, "just in case," and well wishes for an independent future - one where you couldn't call or ask them for help. For a lot of foster kids in San Diego, that's a reality.

Don Wells, executive director of Just in Time For Foster Youth (JIT), a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a community to help transition-age foster youth achieve self-sufficiency, has heard this story over and over again.

Wells remembers one young man who arrived at his placement to be told by his foster father, "You're only here until I pay off my truck." That kid never even unpacked his things, Wells said. He didn't try to make friends at school. The future was uncertain.

For many kids, disconnection is a part of foster care that is hard to shake, even once they've transitioned into the real world. Looking around, Wells saw opportunities for transition-age foster youth to access material resources, but nothing to help them form connection to the world around them. That's the slack that Just In Time For Foster Youth picks up. 

"Basic needs like rental assistance, furniture, they need those things, they're not looking for relationships when they come to us," Wells explained, "They've been disappointed so many times. People have made promises and then disappeared, so they don't even think it's possible."

But if you're trying to help someone with financial literacy, for example, that person is more likely to listen to someone who they feel is a supportive consistent person in their life, not someone just giving a lecture about it, Wells explains. Connection and community are core tenants of the JIT mission.

National foster care statistics from the Dave Thomas Foundation and the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles find that more than 400,000 children enter the foster care system in the United States every year. Of those, 50 percent will never graduate from high school or obtain a GED and 25 percent will experience homelessness at least once. 

Listen to our interview with Just In Time Executive Director Don Wells and Youth Services Lead Coordinator Virgo Villajin to find out how Just In Time For Foster Care is stepping up to serve transition-age foster youth through programs aimed at empowerment and community.

Help JIT raise 30K in 30 days. Every dollar donated in October will be matched by the Sternglanz Foundation of Cardiff.