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My "Aged Out" Foster Daughters
Keeping a household of nine people fed and managed is past my capabilities. Lea and Ivy are real troopers and at the ages of 13 and 14 are helpful, sweet and responsible. I think they both share their frustration at Billy and Shari and their problems. Lea and Ivy are also united in their disgust of the personal hygiene of 10 and 11 year old boys, and their love and commitment to Nina. They are growing apart outside the home but they are comrades in the home and I rely on them constantly.
It is getting close to Christmas and I will not take Shari and her baby in my car because she has lost the safety seat for her baby. Lea, Ivy, Nina, the boys, and I go on our annual ornament shopping excursion to downtown Sacramento. It is our tradition to take the light rail trolley over the river and to the mall. Lea and Ivy are happy we are doing something we always do and the boys, Fritz and Daniel are finding it quite adventurous. We select ornaments, admire the mall tree, lose and find Daniel with the help of mall security. I am even able to do some shopping, including small gifts for Billy and Shari and some of the things I still need for Fritz and Daniel. Upon our return home, we see Billy through the living room window entertaining friends. Clearly, Billy does not view her status in my home the same way I do.
My job is to provide a therapeutic foster home for special needs foster children. It is difficult, if not impossible to do this with the return of Shari, her baby and Billy. I know that my house is out of compliance as a licensed foster home because we have too many people, but I also have faith that I will be given time to solve this problem. Anyone connected to social services is very aware that emancipated foster youth do not have the ability to emancipate simply because their 18th birthday has occurred. My foster care agency knows Billy and Shari, they were theirs also and I have faith that they do not want me to put them out anymore than I have the heart to send them to the street. I have to find some way to help Billy and Shari live independently.
I place a call to county social services and I am directed to a worker with the newly formed “Independent Living Services.” “Independent Living Services” is a section of social services created just to cope with the increasing homeless problem of emancipated foster youth in our county. A social worker with ILC comes to our home to meet with Billy and Shari. After the worker meets with Billy and Shari, she wants to meet with me, separate from the girls. I learn that there is a small apartment project operated by ILC which is about to open. It is a newly renovated apartment building with nine one bedroom fully furnished apartments and an office staffed by a social worker supporting and directing the young residents. Each apartment will have either two young adults as roommates or an adult with a child or infant such as Shari. I am also told that Billy can be accepted into the program immediately because she has proper ID and a recent criminal backround clearance. Shari has nothing, her ID has disappeared with all her other possessions. Billy can move in tomorrow and I will take her there. The social worker gets started with Shari by giving her forms to fill out in order to replace all of her lost paperwork. We are told it can take as long as two months. Billy seems a little miffed that I am so anxious to get rid of her. I point out to her that I simply cannot afford to feed everyone and she has a home to go to now. The ILC program is anxious to enroll her and get her on their roster. Evidently, many emancipated foster youth are lacking backround clearances and ID’s resulting in delays in filling the facility. I assure Billy that we want her to join us for Christmas and we are still family. The next day, I take Billy and her possessions to her new home.