Report: Adolescents in Foster Care Need Opportunities to Thrive

A permanent connection with a caring adult is important for a young person's development. Photo Credtit: Pixabay

Andrea Sears
Public News Service

HARTFORD, Conn. – Positive interactions with the child-welfare system can be particularly critical for adolescents, according to a recent report.

Discussions of foster care and interventions by social services often focus on younger children. But the report from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative focuses on what adolescents in the system need to thrive while they experience trauma, loss and racism during the transition to adulthood.

Doctor Lauren Ruth, the advocacy director at Connecticut Voices for Children, points out that brain development continues well into a young person’s twenties.

“This is a period of extreme growth for individuals and young people which creates opportunities for really positive development, but it also creates vulnerabilities,” she explains.

The report emphasizes that adolescents need access to opportunities if they are to continue to grow and develop into productive adults.

Alexandra Lohrbach, a program associate with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, says those opportunities include everything from age-appropriate risk-taking to taking on responsibilities.

“Things such as getting a job, maintaining meaningful relationships, even learning to drive and managing money – skills and experiences that are all necessary to thrive into adulthood,” she says.

She says child-welfare service providers need to treat young people as individuals who are still developing, and make sure they have a fair chance to achieve their full potential.

Connecticut has had social workers who are specially trained in adolescent development who would take over cases when children reached the age of 14. But Ruth says that has been changing.

“With the budget crunches that we’ve had for the past number of years, they have fewer people specializing in adolescents, and now more social workers have cases that run the developmental gamut,” Dr. Ruth adds.

The report recommends several changes that caseworkers, service providers, teachers, judges and others can make to help young people in the child-welfare system thrive.