Vol. 20, No. 2 • May 2016

Teens in Foster Care in North Carolina

The Numbers. One in three young people in foster care is an adolescent. Of the 10,282 children in foster care in North Carolina on February 29, 2016, 28.79% (n=2,959) were between the ages of 13 and 21 (Duncan, et al., 2016).

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. So far, of the kids who entered DSS custody in 2014-15, half (50%) of youths age 13 to 17 have spent some time in a non-family placement setting, compared with 15% of children age 6 to 12 and 2% of children age birth to 5 (Duncan, et al., 2016).

Needs. Those who "age out" of foster care need our help. In 2014-15, 502 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 help them survive the normal crises everyone experiences in the transition to adulthood. Help youth build youths' personal support networks by:

  • Being 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.

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~ Family and Children's Resource Program, UNC-CH School of Social Work ~