When D.C.'s children in foster care reach age 18, many begin to leave the system in a process called emancipation. Without continued support, some of these so-called 'foster kids' will fail as they become adults; but one local group is helping provide them with a leg up.
Shumeka Moore is one such young woman, who grew up in a series of foster homes in and around D.C. Some were okay, and others not so good. But at least Moore had the support of a family until she turned 21, she says.
“If I didn’t have the support system that I have, I don't know exactly where I would be," she says. "Family, that was not an option, so I would probably be in a shelter somewhere."
As foster children transition to adulthood, they 'age out' of the foster care system and are released to live life on their own. Without the support of family, many find themselves unprepared at the age of emancipation, and at risk.
Krystal Wortham is a volunteer with the D.C. Office of Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA. As Moore’s advocate in the 'Foster Futures' program, Wortham helped provide a continuity of service and guidance to help Moore bridge those awkward young adult years.
“Shumeka has been through four to five different placements in foster care as well as six to eight social workers," says Wortham. "But with each one of those, her team was there to support her, and she has come through as an independent, well-spoken person, sister, daughter, and she has evolved.”
The mother of a 3-year-old girl, Moore is now a senior at Trinity College studying criminal justice.
“They made sure my grades are good, keeping doctor appointments for me and my child, what I’m going to do and where I’m going to live after I emancipate," Moore says. "So I had a plan in place. So I wasn't just stuck on my 21st birthday not knowing what to do."
The Child Welfare League reports 20,000 to 25,000 young adults age out of foster care each year.