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For teens in the foster care system, turning 18 can be rough

But local agencies are helping in the transition
Posted at 8:29 PM, Aug 27, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — For teenagers in the foster care system, turning 18 can be rough, especially during a pandemic.

The law says foster children are on their own when they reach 18. Some end up homeless.

In Indianapolis, there is help, including from the Indianapolis Housing Agency (IHA).

According to the Indiana Department of Child Services, Indiana provides voluntary services to young adults who previously were in foster care a minimum of six months and aged out of foster care at age 18. Services are available up to the day before a person's 23rd birthday.

Because many foster youth are now homeless, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is rolling out a program to provide stable housing to former foster youth, ages 18-24.

The IHA was awarded $14,000 for the "Foster Youth to Independence Initiative" - and has already chosen three participants. Each will receive vouchers that will assist them with housing for up to three years.

"This is a voluntary initiative. We at the Indianapolis Housing Agency, we are the first housing authority in Indiana to sign up and to actually have participants," said John Hall, IHA executive director.

Another organization helping is "A Voice for Kids," where Matthew Peiffer is executive director.

"I get a little bit jealous because every time I hear a friend be like yeah I lived with my mom till I was 25. And I was like well I'm on my own at 18 because I don't have a mom. So it's super hard. I hate to be super blunt about it but we don't have those people in our life to support us at all," said Peiffer.

He uses his own experiences and challenges he faced going through the foster system to advocate for others now.

"I actually have another meeting later today with another foster youth who is 18 years old who needs to get back into services because nobody expected any of us to have to go through these times," Peiffer said

Peiffer's been working with his local housing authority and wants others across the state to get involved and offer this program to foster youth.

"I think they're a little bit nervous about getting their hands into it right now but at the end of the day, we are the ones struggling. These foster youth here in our counties during this pandemic and we really need that support," he said.

An estimated 400 Indiana teens age out of the foster care system each year. Nationally, the figure is around 25,000.

Many young people needing a good deal of help.