One way you could make a huge different in the life of a young person in foster care (or one who recently aged out of the system) is to give them a job.
Data shows that youth in foster care have a harder time finding and securing employment than youth not in foster care. Underemployment and challenges with finding and holding a job contribute to a higher rate of homelessness in youth who have spent time in foster care.
Perhaps you are not able to be a foster parent to a teen or young adult in care, but you could help in another way:
Looking for extra help around your house this summer? Do you run a summer camp and need young, energetic people to help corral children to parks and bowling alleys? Need some yard work done? Babysitter or Mother’s Helper? Dog walker, house sitter? Do you own a small business and need summer help?
Consider posting your job opportunities at a local foster care agency or Big Brothers/Big Sisters club. Pay a fair wage for the work you’re hiring them to do, and allow some time to get to know them as well. The more I have gotten to know teens and young adults in foster care, the more I realize that they represent a talent pool just waiting to be discovered!
And mentor them.
Young people in foster care are hungry for mentorship. They don’t know what they don’t know, but they know they want “out.” They want to thrive in adulthood—they just don’t always know what that will take.
Trust me when I tell you: if you invest time in a foster youth, you will be making a great investment. Be patient but persistent as you train your new hire. Don’t assume they come in with the same expectations as you—communicate clearly and create work agreements so you and they know what your expectations of them are.
Bonus incentive: there is even a tax credit, apparently, for hiring “individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.” Why not look into that?
Some parts of the country have organizations that work with local businesses to help them find talent among their community’s foster youth. Other organizations help train and prep foster youth for the work force. Poke around and see what’s available in your area. A good place to start would be to Google “hire a foster youth in (your state).”