Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Problem Nothing to do with Software

I'm not going to talk about software today. Or frogs. Or even cookies.

As much as I love writing code and drawing frogs, there are more important things in this world.

Children.

I am a foster parent. We have a teenage foster daughter that we hope to adopt soon. Teenagers are not always easy to love, especially ones that come from difficult backgrounds. Taking one into your home is challenging. But nothing good ever comes easy.

One particularly troubling thing that happens to teens in foster care is "aging out" of the system. That's what happens when the state fails to reunite children with their families or find permanent homes for them. When they become too old to remain in the system, they are sent out into the world - in many ways completely on their own.

According to Children's Rights, more than 23,000 young people aged out of foster care in 2012. The percentage of youth that age out is increasing. The older the children are, the harder it is to find permanent homes for them.

Without some kind of support system in place, it is not reasonable to expect these teens to succeed. By age 26, only 4 percent of youth who age out of foster care have earned a college degree. The number is 36 percent in the general population. Okay, so maybe college isn't for everyone. But 80 percent of these kids are unable to support themselves just 4 years after leaving care. Less than 50 percent have graduated high school, and 25 percent have been homeless (source here).

These numbers disturb me greatly. We as a society have a responsibility to our children, and we are failing. Even one child aging out is too many. The system is not working. We need to fix it.

What can be done? Sure, we can contact our state representatives and demand change. We can give to organizations that help foster children (I like the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Dave Thomas was adopted, and he also worked with my hero Colonel Sanders before starting Wendy's). Those things are good.

But the only thing that is sure to make a difference is you getting personally involved. Become a foster parent yourself. Adopt a teenager.

I won't lie to you. It's not all smiles and sunshine. It's hard. You will cry. You will question your own sanity. There are probably a million reasons why you shouldn't do it. I used to tell myself all million of them, but I can't anymore.

I can't bear to see one more child slip through the cracks of our society.

It's not easy. But nothing good ever comes easy.