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Life After Foster Care: MO Youth Need Housing, Support Systems

Affordable Housing Crisis
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More than 5,000 Missouri children and teens leave foster care every year. For older teens who are transitioning to adulthood, housing can be a challenge.

The holidays can be a tough time for young people who have aged out of the foster-care system. For young Missourians, housing is an especially big concern.

An Annie E. Casey Foundation survey found, among young Missourians who'd been in foster care after their 17th birthday, 17% had experienced homelessness by age 21.

David Trammell, youth program supervisor with the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association, said folks who've been part of the foster system often leave with trauma, which can make stability into adulthood more difficult.

"Many of the youth who are referred to us are often homeless at the time," said Trammell. "So, once we can get a youth stabilized, then you can start working on securing employment or furthering your education - but homelessness is such a big factor."

He added that in Missouri, there is some support available, such as educational training vouchers and access to services through the Chafee Independent Living Program. But he said it is also important for a young person to have a support system - and in many cases, nonprofit groups aim to fill that gap.

Trammell noted that he, and all staff members at his nonprofit, are foster-care alumni themselves. He said he thinks there should be more support for organizations like his willing to work closely with young people and understand what they're going through.

"We want them to have an equal chance of success as someone who has a strong support system," said Trammell. "So, we step in and we become that support system, through sharing our stories and our experiences, hopefully to point the youth in the right direction."

Another need, he said, is for greater outreach efforts - to make sure young people know about and are able to access federal resources like the Chafee Program.

According to the Casey Foundation data, just 17% of Missouri youths who've aged out of foster care receive financial assistance for education, and only 3% join employment programs or receive job training.

This story was originally published by the Public News Service, a member of The Trust Project, and a news partner of KRCU Public Radio.