As I exited the foster-care system, one thing that would have helped me is having the opportunity to take classes on living independently.
I was enrolled in the state’s Independent Living Program (ILP), but it didn’t prepare me to be on my own — to understand bills or function in my own apartment. I never learned about saving money or even managing money. When obtaining my first apartment, I felt secure because I thought the state’s ILP would always be there for me to handle any problems that I didn’t understand. But the reality is, the instructors never taught me how to do it for myself.
Due to not learning true independence, I struggled to transition into adulthood. I believe if there were classes offered on how to manage money, how to access public utilities, rent-program assistance and the importance of building rental history, then I wouldn’t have become homeless right when I turned 21, leaving extended foster care. I didn’t understand any of the bills and struggled to live without assistance.
I am currently homeless and am doing a lot of research and outreach to programs that I am qualified for. It doesn’t feel good being where I am now, but my biological family has helped me work through this. I just wish I was given some core classes and skills to learn what it really means to be independent.” – Janell Braxton
Rereading this and watching the short video on homeless youth, my heart goes out to Janell Braxton and every other foster child who is a part of the often inadequate aging out at 21 years of age process. One’s age may make them an adult in the eye of the law. However, this does not mean they are adequately equipped to be an adult. Let’s all think back to when we were that age. I am sure many of us cringe at the stupid shit we did, and at all the things we did not know but thought we did. When I visit my young clients we often talk about meals, but behind that there is plenty of real life talk (in particular about money management, building credit, and references). The children I check in on weekly live in a transition living facility. This is the opportunity for them to build a rental history (many youth pay a percent of their income to live in these facilities) and a lesson in money management and saving. I inform them they need to ask questions. For example, what is the TOTAL cost of living? It is not just rent; it is often utilities and the cost of transportation. They then need to realistically ask themselves, “Can I afford this solo, or would I be better off getting a room in a house?” I also think these issues are something that all young adults face. When I look back on my early 20’s.I know the best advice I ever got was to “Set up direct deposit for savings. Out of site out of mind.” What was your biggest, best, and worst advice?
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