The number of Tennessee youth in foster care who are aging out of the system is down, and for those who are leaving, extended support is helping with the transition to adulthood. Photo credit: Sophie & Cie/Flickr.
Progress is being reported in Tennessee as the number of foster children in the state who are aging out of the system without finding a forever home is trending down. Michael Leach, director of independent living with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, says fewer than 1,000 turned 18 and aged out last year, down from around 1,200 over the past five years. “The department has, with the focus and emphasis on permanency and adoption and exits to connected caring people…we have seen a decrease in young people aging out,” he says. Leach says, overall, there are about 8,000 children and young people of all ages in the Tennessee foster care system at any given time. Leach notes that in Tennessee, foster youth who are enrolled in higher education can opt back into the system until they’re 21 to continue receiving services and key support in areas such as housing, employment skills and education. “Whatever was going on in their living situation may have affected their schooling or life skill development,” he says. “Or the traumas associated with abuse and neglect, they’re dealing with those needs and so it’s hard to focus on other things to move you forward.”