Why are we sending former foster youth out onto the street?
In Los Angeles County, former foster youth often lack access to affordable housing. The substantial increase in rent prices has forced people to live on the streets, in their cars, or to couch surf.
Disparities in access to affordable housing are more prominent in underserved communities, including former foster youth. In most cases, former foster youth who have faced housing insecurity also have historically faced discrimination and prejudice. This system is not designed for people who are coming out of the foster care system, including foster youth who have fewer opportunities than those who ultimately control resources. This often leaves former foster youth — especially LGBTQ+ folks, veterans, and people of color — experiencing difficulties in securing housing, especially when they have exited the foster care system.
We, as a society, can blame the broken system and inflation for the increase in rent. However, no human being should ever be forced to deal with housing insecurity. Minimum wages are not increasing at the same rate as inflation in rent and the cost of basic living expenses. Therefore, minimum wages do not provide enough income to afford the rent of a single room, forcing people to sometimes take multiple jobs. Struggling to pay rent for stable housing causes stress that, in the long run, can affect physical as well as mental health.
For former foster youth, there are not enough opportunities to establish and advance a professional career that can pay wages that are enough to afford housing. However, when opportunities arise, a professional career can be a difficult pathway for former foster youth to navigate by themselves. Many former foster youth do not have and probably never had a strong support system that can mentor and guide them to succeed in their professional careers. Creating programs, mentorships, and workshops for foster children and students could help make more foster youth in our community feel fulfilled and have more hope and desire to pursue careers.
As a young Los Angeles Public Health Department employee, Los Angeles County Youth Commissioner, student, and former foster youth, it is my duty to continue to seek more support and advocacy for my community and create awareness of the importance of professional career opportunities for foster youth in order to explore career paths. With more career opportunities, development of career skills, and exposure to different career paths, housing insecurity can be individually fought.
I strongly believe that any type of leadership, lived experience, and academic experience can give foster youth the knowledge and tools to be exceptional and well-rounded young individuals and proud citizens. I truly believe that engaging other former foster youth to thrive in their professional lives will help boost their confidence and encourage personal development, which will always lead to success.
This article is published in partnership with the Youth Voice program, which provides writing opportunities to young people across the country with experience in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.