DES MOINES, Iowa– According to the Youth Policy Institute of Iowa, young adults who age out of foster care do not have the social or economic stability to sustain a stable and secure life. One local program is helping foster care youth in making a smooth transition into adulthood.
Iowa Aftercare Services Network is run by Youth and Shelter Services. In past years it has catered to young adults between the ages of 18 to 21. Recently they have extended its age limit to 23.
President of YSS said this extension comes at a critical time as many young adults might be experiencing more challenges due to the pandemic. A self-sufficiency Advocate in the program, Hannah van Schaik said they were seeing participants still struggle after they left the program.
“Just because someone turns 21, doesn’t mean that they’ve got everything set,” van Schaik said. “Some young adults find housing and get it and things work out and that’s that. But that’s not the case for everyone.”
In fact, research from the National Youth in Transition Database states that 27% of Iowa youth reported being homeless within the last two years.
The Aftercare Services Network pairs participants with a trained self-sufficiency advocate that assists with securing safe housing, pursuing education, finding employment, and managing physical and emotional healthcare.
One participant, Mackenzie Carder, said this program has been the perfect bridge from foster care to adulthood.
“When I was 18, I knew I wanted to be done with the foster care services, but I didn’t know exactly how to go about being an adult and to live my life,” Carder said. “So it’s really nice to be in Aftercare and have a worker and a mentor to kind of help me just guide my life in the right direction.”
Participants are also eligible for a monthly stipend for up to $600 .
Carder also said this program not only helped her with finances and day to day responsibilities but it also provided stable relationships in her life, which she explained many foster care kids are missing.
Carder said she advises young adults aging out of foster care to enroll in the program as it helps with envisioning a brighter future.
“I think it’s important for all kids to remember who age out of the system that scars don’t have to dictate where we’re going, but they remind us of where we come from and who we are. And with that said, I always like to say always forward and never back,” Carder said.
For more information about the program, visit https://iowaaftercare.org/.