"SO MANY PATHS, SO MANY CHOICES, WHICH ONE IS THE RIGHT DIRECTION?"
We have learned that the path toward success after aging out of the foster care system is not traveled alone and there is hope and opportunities along the way. The real question is “How do we know we are on the right path or what direction our lives should be heading toward?” What many youth do not realize is that there are many opportunities available after one ages out of the system.
· Post Secondary Education
· Military (Active, Reserve, and Enlisted/Officer)
· Independent living with the foster care
· Vocational and Trade Schools, etc.
As a youth in the foster care system, you are not excluded from success just because of your situation. It has always been my personal belief that one needs to see the opportunities before them so that they can set goals for themselves and work to achieve them. Yes, you ask yourself questions "How I am going to pay for any of these things?" or "How am I going to make it through without a stable support system?" Many times, there is more help and assistance available than you may think. It is my goal to open your eyes to opportunities before you and introduce you to support systems that may help you to attain your goals. ETV Funding is a scholarship opportunity that is specifically provided to foster care children who are willing to take the time to be studious and dedicated to receive a diploma. If you follow the regulations and guidelines, there are financial opportunities available. Further education is not necessarily the right path for everyone after they age out of the system and the military may provide better opportunities to gain knowledge and skill sets. The problem is not that there are no opportunities available, but instead finding the will to pick a path on which to move forward to create career opportunities for yourself.
Many youths that age out of the foster system are unaware of all the opportunities that are before them. As a foster child in the system, you are often micromanaged in hopes to prevent bad behavior, but this leads to dependency in youth and muffles their self-sufficiency. Oftentimes youth doubt their ability to make decisions on their own and fall into depression. This accelerates as youth age out of the system because they transition from an environment where all their decisions were made for them to complete independence and minimal guidance, support or reassurance. Firstly, I want to introduce you to career development through a counseling perspective. Please do not brush off this topic because it speaks of the term “counseling” because if your experience with counseling is an unfavorable memory, then it is likely that you did not have the right counselor for you. However, this does not mean it is too late to have a positive experience with counseling and this information will provide beneficial steps towards your success! Dr. Samuel Gladding (1994) discusses that the primary goal in career counseling with adolescents is to help them find their purpose and uncover special talents that can contribute to a healthy career. Employers often want to test the maturity level and presentation quality presented during an employee’s interview and how they will react to difficult situations. By tapping into a youth’s talents and skills, these can be positively directed toward career development opportunities.
POST SECONDARY EDUCATION
- Community Colleges
- Federal Aid
Refer to your group home advisor
VOCATIONAL/TRADE SCHOOLS AND JOBS
Gladding, S. T. (1994). Effective Group Counseling. School of Education
Savolaine, J., & GRANELLO, P. F. (2002). The Function of Meaning and Purpose for Individual Wellness. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 41(2), 178–89
Veach, L. J., & Gladding, S. T. (2010). Using Creative Group Techniques in High Schools. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work , 32(1), 71–81
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
It is not uncommon for youth to follow their parents’ occupational interests due to comfort and familiarity. However, many foster youth do not have positive family occupations to look toward for guidance or inspiration. In regards to counseling, this directly relates to the social-cognitive career theory surrounding four factors: genetic endowment, conditions and events of environment, learning, and task skills. (Gladding 1994) If foster youth follow this theory, many would not strengthen skills and talents for career opportunities and would fall into lives of delinquency as many of their parents had. The purpose in a career is to take your knowledge and skill set and productively accomplish objectives and goals. To reach this degree of proficiency, one must press toward a future of growth and success. In perspective, our beloved red-headed orphan may have had a simpler life with little concern about social-cognitive theories, but this doesn’t mean your success is impossible just because you are not like Annie.
Now that you know there are counseling theories you must challenge, let’s look at theories that can help push you in the right direction toward success. All foster children should consider developmental theories as they push for a career in their future. When considering these types of theories, it is important to understand that the focus is self-concept. (Savolaine & Granello 2002) As I have mentioned earlier, many youth have been bombarded by negative statistics of youth who have aged out of the system and this overwhelms them as they themselves face aging out. You may be more concerned with survival than setting goals for yourself because you do not have the support system to give you a chance or encourage you. The way you view yourself, however, is what will influence the way you perform outside of foster care – not the expectations that have been pushed upon you. The purpose of this discipline is show you that you alone decide your future and your career; not society or the world around you. There are always organizations and counselors to assist you through this process, but understand that all stages of development (growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance, and decline) come from you alone. (Gladding 2010) You not only have control over what path you choose to take, but how you progress along it and the way in which you contribute positively to your career. Remember your fellow foster youth who have also aged out and collaborate with them so that you may help others succeed on a larger scale. You must always move forward in order to seek out your career path and never step backward.
For this discipline, I want you to go out there and use some of the resources on this page to find you own path. Doing your own research concerning your career path will help develop the techniques and foundations you will need to become successful and prosper. The best suggestion I can make is to find several potential paths that you might follow and begin to explore the potentials of each before deciding. No one, myself included, can tell you which career to choose. You must overcome those who try to limit your life choices and instead aim for something bigger. I could tell you join the Air Force like me and you will be successful, but that is not the truth. You must take charge of your own life, but you do not have to wait until you reach eighteen! You can begin planning your future now! Assistance programs and organizations will always be here to support you, but you must take the reins for yourself and guide your own life. What are you waiting for? Remember where you came from and help your fellow foster youth reach their career goals too!
An obstacle is often an unrecognized opportunity”