- Jessica Butters
You Never Outgrow the Need for a Family
By Jessica Butters, Child Placing Director
In this past year, Providence Place took on the challenge of opening a Supervised Independent Living (SIL) Program during a pandemic. I am thrilled to say that the young women in this program are attending school, working, and gaining their independent living skills even through these challenging times. This speaks only to their resilience, resourcefulness, and determination.
As we approach the holidays, I struggle with the realization that this may be the first holiday season that they are on their own. In shelters, residential programs, and foster homes, there are decorations, presents, family meals, and a sense of togetherness. As youth in foster care turn 18, this sense of connection, protection, and belonging goes away.
Last year, in Texas, there were over 1,200 youth who aged out of care. Only around 450 of these youths had “emancipation” as their permanency goal. This means about 750 youth wanted to return to their families or be adopted before the age of 18. They did not have plans to be on their own and independent; their circumstances chose this for them. Think back to your senior year of high school. Who did you look for in the crowd at sporting events, band recitals, or graduation? In college or in adulthood, where did you spend holidays? I am sure that most of your answers are the same as mine: “my family.” Who do these youth look for? For a few of our SIL girls, it was Providence Place staff in a drive through graduation parade.
The need for foster and adoptive parents who are willing to open their hearts and homes to teenagers and siblings is not new in Texas. This has been a great need for many years. Some of our young ladies have younger siblings who were adopted. They were told “you are too old” and “this family only wants the younger ones.” Can you imagine how that feels? There are plenty of ways to support foster teens outside of adoption. A person can become a CASA volunteer, a mentor, and an advocate for families to consider adopting teens. We all get older, although Hollywood and Photoshop have given us a few tips and tricks to slow down the outward indications. At the end of the day, you never outgrow the need for family.