Vol. 13, No. 2 • May 2009

Teens in Foster Care in North Carolina

The Numbers. One in three young people in foster care is an adolescent. Of the 9,771 children in foster care in North Carolina on February 28, 2009, 34.29% (n=3,350) were between the ages of 13 and 21 (Duncan, et al., 2009).

Where They Live. Many do not live with a family, even though state policy says all children should be placed in the most family-like setting possible. In state fiscal year 2006-07, one in five (21%) of youths age 13 to 17 were placed in group homes when they first entered DSS custody, compared with 6% of children age 6 to 12 and 1% of children age birth to 5 (Duncan, et al., 2009).

Needs. Those who “age out” of foster care need our help. In 2007-08, 611 young adults aged out of foster care in North Carolina. Research shows that compared to the general population, these youth are at much higher risk for incarceration, homelessness, poor educational attainment, and poverty (NCDSS, 2008).

What You Can Do
The most important thing we can do for young people in foster care is assure they have a consistent personal support network of at least five caring adults, in addition to the professionals in their lives. If we can help youth identify and strengthen these relationships, we will literally help them survive the normal crises everyone experiences in the transition to adulthood. You can help youth build their personal support networks by:

  • Being particularly mindful of relatives and siblings as possible resources/significant relationships
  • Enabling youth to participate in activities that will, among other things, expose them to caring adults
  • Accepting the young person’s plans for their life and helping them develop those plans while they have the resources of the agency to help process what they are learning.

Copyright 2009 Jordan Institute for Families