The transition to adulthood and self- sufficiency is never easy. However, it presents a particular challenge to the estimated 20,000 young adults who transition annually from the foster care system. The age range for “aging-out” varies across the states between age 18 and 21. Often these young people do not have family who are able to give the needed emotional and/or financial support. In addition, they cannot turn to the state once they have been discharged from care. Consequently, the transition to adulthood is a challenge that they face largely on their own.
The 2008 BACW conference theme, “Listening and Responding to the Voices of Our Youth, Our Legacy” was chosen because of our deep concern for youth who unsuccessfully transition from the child welfare system to living independent. As we look at the outcomes for African American youth passing through and exiting the child welfare system, we are confronted with the reality that their ability to achieve success in maintaining good mental and physical health, completing their education, finding gainful employment, and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in their adult life is thwarted by the ineptitude of child welfare and other systems in meeting their childhood needs.