What happens to an unadopted 18-year-old foster child? Way Home Adoption has the answers and opportunities

Ashley Fields, Co-Founder and Director Way Home Adoption

Corey is six months away from his 18th birthday. For many kids, this is a time of anticipation and excitement. For Corey, and those around him, it’s filled with dread.

Corey has been living in foster care for almost eight years and if he leaves on his 18th birthday, he will leave in the 10th grade. He will leave without an adult he can turn to for help, advice or a shoulder to lean on.

Over these last eight years Corey has lived in more than 10 homes and attended as many schools. Some may say that at 17 “the ship has sailed” and it’s time to give up on Corey.

However, Corey continues to hold on to the hope of being adopted. He understands the value of family and is still grieving the loss of his own. Corey knows, like we do, that having an adult to embrace him, keep him safe and help create a future that outshines his past can still change the trajectory of his future.

There are more than 11,000 youth in Texas waiting to be adopted and each year 1,100 of them turn 18 and leave foster care with no roof over their heads or place to call home.

Statistics show, overwhelmingly, that youth who grow up and age-out of the foster care system fare much worse than their peers at the same age.

Here are some alarming statistics that address this point:

  • 70 percent of state penitentiary inmates have spent time in foster care.
  • 50 percent of our homeless population in Houston and nationwide were in foster care at one time.
  • 55 percent of youth who leave the foster care system do so without a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Statistics and experience also tell us that adoption is the solution. Adoption changes the trajectory of a child’s life, even when the youth is as old as 17. Youth who are adopted out of the foster care system and into permanent homes are:

  • 50 percent less likely to be delinquent or arrested
  • 32 percent less likely to be incarcerated
  • 50 percent more successful in academic progression

The Way Home Adoption is a recruitment and matching agency that serves Corey and many other youth like him between the ages of 11-17, who are lingering in foster care and who are at-risk of “aging out of the system” on their 18th birthday, youth for whom traditional adoption efforts have failed and who remain “unchosen” on adoption waiting lists.

Our evidence-based program is comprised of three strategies: Reconnection, Community Recruitment and Enrich & Engage. Each of these have been shown to be more effective in recruiting and matching adoptive parents with older youth.

In a nutshell, our agency has been described as “the cold case unit + match.com” for teenagers in foster care.

Unless a permanent home is found for Corey, it is unlikely he will finish high school. In less than a year, it is highly probable he will not have a roof over his head. Corey still desperately needs a parent, as do most teenagers at 17 trying to make their way in the world.

If you are a single dad, an empty-nester or someone who wants to give back to the community by providing for a child in need, you could be the adult Corey has been longing for.

One of the ways we serve kids like Corey is through our Enrich & Engage program which brings youth together with potential parents.

The Way Home Adoption hosts monthly events like cooking classes or golf clinics that provide our youth with opportunities to learn new skills and build self-esteem. These events also create an organic space for interested parents from the community to volunteer with and participate alongside our youth.

Prior to discussing adoption, these events allow interested parents and youth in need of homes to meet each other and form natural bonds, which leads to more stable and successful adoption decisions. The Way Home Adoption aims to provide a safe place for these relationships to form through our Enrich & Engage program.

If you are considering opening your home to an older youth in foster care, like Corey, we’d love to have you join us.

Get to know youth in need of homes and see with whom a natural connection happens. A short volunteer training and background check are required before volunteering with any of our youth.

To learn more about the youth we serve and the programs we offer please visit  www.thewayhomeadoption.org.