Alone And Aging Out

I don’t often address issues related to foster care because I really don’t have any direct experience with that system – thankfully.

Even so, homelessness is an issue close to my heart since my own youngest sister was homeless for 4 years and somehow survived that and even managed to extricate herself from that about 10 years ago.  Her situation remains precarious and my heart hopes she doesn’t end up in those dire straits again but there is no certainty.

I have learned that when children in foster care reach a certain age, they are put out without much in the way of resources.  Some even run away from foster care before they reach that age.  These are children who lack any kind of supportive family to love and care for them.  Their parents may be in prison or addicted to drugs and self-absorbed.  Or their parents may have even died.

There is a non-profit known as Pivot in Oklahoma that is trying to do something substantial to help youth who would be homeless otherwise.  They are building a community of tiny homes to primarily serve the needs of 16 to 19 year old youth.  These are located right outside of the organization’s headquarter.  In addition to providing a bed, small kitchen and bathroom (a roof over their heads), the organization provides services.

They help the teen get a job. They teach them life skills. And they provide therapeutic attention to help these youth heal from a less visible internal hurt.  So regardless of the reason their parents are absent, a youth is understandably upset that the person who was supposed to take care of them, is not there for them.

All children still do love their parents at that level of attachment from birth. There is a grieving process that needs to be addressed – what should have been, could have been – wasn’t.  This healing is necessary if a person is truly to move forward with their lives in a productive manner.

Florence Crittenton

Babies for sale ?  Displayed in a street side window for passersby ? The National Florence Crittenton Mission was an organization established in 1883 by Charles Crittenton. It attempted to reform prostitutes and unwed pregnant women through the creation of establishments where they were to live and learn skills.  Their mission was very similar to that of the Salvation Army at its inception.

Families were eventually sending their unwed mothers to Crittenton homes to hide them from public view and avoid shame. The young women sent to these homes were required to give up their children for adoption.  During the time period of 1945 to 1973, the Florence Crittenton Agency was a major player with a share as large as one-third of the approximately 200 confidential maternity homes which existed during that time period.  In 1976, the Florence Crittenton Association of America merged with the Child Welfare League of America.

My family did not have any dealings with this agency but the organization still exists.  They even have a Facebook page of smiling young women from a diversity of cultures and the motto “Where hope comes to life”.  Today there are still 27 Crittenton agencies around the country.

And today the focus of the agency has matured.  A primary interest is serving teens in foster care as they have few resources and tend to be poorly informed about their rights.  These young women are often pressured by child welfare agencies to relinquish their babies. Crittenton agencies also currently provide services to girls who have been sexually abused or trafficked for sex or who are addicted to drugs.

Beyond these modern day efforts, it is progressive of them to operate a search service to help their former clients and their now adult adoptees to re-connect.  Former clients operate an outreach known as the Florence Crittenton Home Reunion Registry.