From Foster Care to Homelessness: California’s Epidemic of Abandoned Youth

Human Rights Watch has released a new report about California youth in foster care with some startling results. At least 20 percent of the 4,000 who are released from foster care each year end up homeless.

Through interviews with 63 young people who became homeless after leaving foster care, it was evident that factors leading to homelessness include “missed opportunities to learn skills, lack of ability to support themselves, a shortage of second chances, and the fact that no one cared what happened to them.”

With homelessness, young people are more likely to be incarcerated, criminally victimized, sexually abused, impregnated early and/or impoverished. Those with mental health problems, which are not uncommon among foster youth, face even more obstacles, with lack of access to health services.

The state mandates that foster youth be provided with food, health care, shelter and education. However emotional support and guidance are not necessarily present in their lives. When they turn 18 and are “emancipated” they more often than not lack the tools to navigate the adult world. And although child welfare agencies are required to aid foster youth in developing a plan for post-emancipation, HRW’s interviews revealed that reality is often quite different.

The statistics are disturbing. An astounding 90 percent of youth had no source of income upon the time they left foster care, nor did they have any adult to turn to for support. 65 percent had not graduated from high school and 62 percent had no health care.

With the publication of the report, Human Rights Watch calls for California to provide foster youth with support in order to make a smoother transition to adulthood, such as providing mentoring programs, transitional housing programs, mental health services and education programs. It would also be helpful to have programs to address the problems former foster youth face such as early pregnancy or learning disabilities. Elizabeth Calvin, senior advocate for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, argues, “In most US families, young people continue to receive a spectrum of support -  emotional and financial – as they make the transition to adulthood, and the youth in California’s care deserve no less.”

MBisanz, Flickr


W. C
W. C6 months ago


Keith M.
Keith M.6 months ago

Thank you for caring.

William C
William C6 months ago

Thank you for caring.

Charles Austin
Charles Austin5 years ago

We have recently launched a national advocacy group to help foster kids. Please check it out!

Masha Samoilova
Past Member 7 years ago

it must be very difficult with no real family and to be thrown out at 18, no wonder so many experience problems.

Brian W.
Brian W.7 years ago

There is a solution - please excuse my analogies:

Skype is successful and cheep because instead of building networks of computers they use yours to power the system.

The solution is US those of us reading this article. Gandhi said to "be the change you want to see". Do you understand that? Instead of only acknowledging change needs to happen - be the change do it now!

The biggest problem is we seek to solve it with money and via the state but WE can change it. With a little inconvenience, commitment, and sacrifice we can take these kids in. I now am not in CA but Greece I currently have someone living with us here who has no job, food, or place. He looks for work every day and helps around the house.
The Be-Attitude Revolution

Kendall Jackman
Kendall Jackman7 years ago

I have never understood why a child in foster care is completely cut off from family. I understand the child being kept from the abusive, or drug-addicted, or unprepared parent. But what about grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, members of the family that do not poise a threat? These children have no one because the system disconnects them from who they are, family. They are not prepared to live on their own because they are only a check to someone. When they age out, they can turn to crime and you blame them, but they have no choice. We are the only country that throws our children and elders away. Our immigrant ancestors didn't, you lived in extended families. When my daughter was born, she was the fourth generation in the house. Not because we couldn't live elsewhere, but because I was raised in an extended family. She is a better person for knowing her great-grandparents and grandparents. Saw them everyday. Had a wealth of knowledge around her at all times. If we do not return to those ways or something close, this country is going to sink into the oceans that surround us. We'll only have ourselves to blame.

Linda Hughes
L H7 years ago

Here is a big portion of the outcomes for unwanted children and the same applies to unwanted old people and unwanted animals. Society has never really fixed these problems and they continue to grow. What tragedy. Helping kids dropped from mainstream requires a long and active commitment of time, and caring effort to make a difference.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado7 years ago

This is sad but a solution should be made to solve this crisis.

Anubandh Srivastava

stop adulterated cold drink.
stop being guided my multinational monsters