RICHMOND, Va. -- During national adoption month, two Richmond-area organizations announced the results of a nationwide study into the challenges facing the foster care system. The survey, sponsored by Children's Home Society of Virginia (CHSV) and the Better Housing Coalition, also examined areas of improvement in Virginia.
Virginia has one of the highest rates of children aging out of the foster care system in the country, the survey found.
Aging out, or emancipation, is when a young adult leaves the system because of their age and has no permanent or legal family system behind them.
While the Commonwealth is one of two states in the country that provide services for foster kids in six key areas (education, employment, financial capability, housing, health care, permanent adult relationships), the study found that those services are not available in every region of the state.
In response to the report's recommendations, Children's Home Society appointed a "Task Force on Transitioning Youth" to strengthen the support network for children who age out of foster care.
The panel, comprised of current and former state lawmakers and local advocates, will examine the best practices and policies to improve the outcome for young adults who age out of the system.
"We want to take this panel of experts, let them review the findings of the report, and identify those policies that best equip our young people to thrive," Nadine Marsh-Carter, President and CEO of Children's Home Society of Virginia, said.
CHSV said the study is the first of its kind in the country and relies on data from both public and private organizations.
The report noted that "young adults with foster care experience often miss out on necessary resources, making it harder to locate safe and stable housing, find steady and meaningful employment, and build strong and positive relationships."
Less than three percent of foster kids graduate from college and less than half are employed by the age of 26, the study said.
Diehdre Gregory is the program manager for "The Possibilities Project," a program that provides young people who age out of foster care in Virginia with a variety of resources, including housing. Gregory said foster children begin young adulthood at a "deficit" because their home life lacks permanency and consistency.
Helping foster kids transition into adulthood is critical, according to Gregory.
"It's always the thought that once a person reaches 18, they've been in foster care, they probably have access to a lot of things. The reality is they don't," she said.