May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and as WNPR's Ray Hardman reports, advocates are pushing to extend foster care from 18 to 21 years old.
There are currently close to 4,000 foster care children in Connecticut. And when they turn 18, they begin a sometimes rocky transition into the real world. "At 18, they're put on their own, and without support, without a community around them. Many times, that leads to incarceration, homelessness, and poverty." That's Sixto Cancel. He's a sophomore in college who entered Connecticut's foster care system before his first birthday. According to a report released today by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, 18-year-olds that age out of the foster care system are more likely than their peers to drop out of school, experience homelessness, and end up in jail. The foster care advocacy group says the solution is to keep these children in foster care until the age of 21. Gary Stangler is director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative: "Research is clear, and we all know as parents, the adolescent brain is not fully developed. We need to help these young people with the things we provide for our own kids. It saves about 8 billion dollars a year if we can make a difference with this group of young people, which in Connecticut is about 130 young people a year." Earlier today a group of former and current foster children, experts, and advocates introduced the Success Beyond 18 initiative to legislators on Capitol Hill.