Aging Out of Foster Care B
etween the ages of seven and eighteen, Olivia moved in and out of over thirty foster homes across Ohio. She was abused by her step-father and later diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety. Olivia’s mother refused to give up her parental rights which prevented Olivia from being adopted. And, because county restrictions prohibited her from getting her driver’s license while she was in foster care, when she aged out of the system she had not learned to drive nor did she have the means to begin learning. Because Highland County, a rural area, does not have a public transportation system, this left her with few travel options. Olivia struggled to graduate high school and her added emotional distress combined with a lack of a support system made it difficult to make the adult decisions necessary, now that she was on her own.
system they are unprepared to make the decisions necessary. “I kept running away. I didn’t know how to make it work,” Olivia recalled. “I know I can’t do that anymore.”
Olivia, however, is no longer alone. With the help and encouragement of Highland County Community Action Organization, her path to stability and a self-sufficient future has begun. Case managers at HCCAO have connected Olivia to shelter, food, and workforce development services all within walking distance of each other—including the local college in which she is working towards enrollment.
“I have had some great people in my life, including my last foster mom, Brenda,” Olivia said. “It was Brenda who connected me with HCCAO to work on getting my life together. “When I aged out of the system, all I could She and the staff here have been the guiding think was ‘I’m free!’” Olivia said. “I made deci- force I need. I can’t say that I’m perfect, but sions but was never taught how to make them they’ve always accepted my flaws and welresponsibly. I didn’t know how to budget or comed me with open arms to take the next write a resume. I couldn’t drive and had no step together.” way to practice for the test. And I had no job and no way to get to one.” Olivia continues to break down the barriers created by her childhood; she has wide Olivia’s story is not unlike many others who aspirations and is determined to succeed. grew up in the foster system. PTSD is a com- With the help and encouragement of HCCAO mon diagnosis for children due to the trauand her former foster mother, Olivia’s goal in matic experience of the loss of a parent. Many the future is to give back to the community times, development stops at the age of the and help other children who are aging out of trauma, and when children age out of the foster care.
Only three out of 10 foster youth in Ohio are employed full-time by age 21 6
See Table 23, p. 42
Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies