SOS Children’s Villages Illinois looks forward to Foster Care Awareness Month every May. It provides a wonderful opportunity for outreach, community awareness, and a chance to see how far we’ve come in the pursuit of providing children in foster care loving homes, the ability to heal, and bright futures.
We recently took a look back at the history of foster care. In doing so, we found that there have been wonderful advancements made and that more and more, awareness is being brought to the lifelong advantages that are provided to children experiencing foster care that resemble our model of care at SOS Illinois.
While Nation’s Average for Children in Foster Care Continues to Rise, Illinois is Trending Downward
The number of children in foster care in America is rising for the fourth year in a row, sadly due to a large rise in the amount of parents experiencing substance abuse problems. In fact, our neighboring state of Indiana is especially struggling with this increase, largely in part from the opioid crisis they are suffering from.
However, here in Illinois, the numbers are much less somber. The number of youth in foster care in Illinois continues to decline, shedding light on the positive impacts we’re making here with our children at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois.
Average Time Spent in Foster Care in Illinois is Going Down
In addition to the numbers trending downward in our state, the amount of time children spend in foster care in Illinois is also going down. This is incredible news for the fostering community and the children in our care!
The average time spent in foster care in Illinois in 1998 was 32.6 months. In 2015, that number greatly reduced to 20.4 months. And the number of children in foster care for three years or more dropped from 33% in 1998 to 15% in 2015. That’s a decrease of over 50%!
High School Graduation Rates Soar at SOS Illinois
One of the stigmas attached to youth in foster care is the lower high school graduation rates. While Illinois youth not enrolled in school between the ages of 16-19 decreased from 50,000 to 45,000 from 2012 to 2016, the graduation rate for the 2016-17 school year was only 87%.
However, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois proudly maintains 100% high school graduation rates for all of the children in our care. Every part of our team understands the great importance and incredible value that comes with completing your high school education, and we strive for our children to know the same.
Extending Care Beyond 18 Offers Many Advantages
For many states, when a youth in foster care reaches their 18th birthday, they can be cut loose from the system. However, several courts have seen the vast benefits that can arise from extending this age limit to 21 and have implemented it at the advantage of foster youth.
Our College Bound and Beyond program focuses on the importance of high school graduation and ensuring that each of the children in our care makes it to theirs. This program also helps prepare them for college as well as the workforce.
In addition to our College Bound and Beyond program and the advantages it provides, allowing foster youth to extend care until age 21 brings even more benefits such as:
- Increased earnings
- Delayed pregnancy
- Reduced crime, particularly among females
- Increased involvement of noncustodial fathers with their children
- Increased likelihood of receiving independent living services after age 18
While the history of foster care can sometimes seem bleak, it’s a wonderful reminder of the heart that went into starting it and the magnificent strides we’ve continued to make since then. As more cities and states learn the unique advantages for foster youth associated with our model of care, it is our hope that they will adopt them and help transform the future for children in foster care.
To dive further into the information provided above, check out these resources: