ILSP-The Transition to Adulthood
by Richard Bermack
Housing is the problem. Social workers have trouble
finding proper foster homes for children entering the system and have
trouble finding housing for the young adults leaving the system. Many
workers feel that by the time foster kids end up in ILSP, the workers
have to deal not only with the trauma the kids received before they entered
the system, but also with the trauma they experienced in the system. ILSP
is the last chance for the system to heal clients before they go out into
the adult world, but unfortunately housing in the Bay Area is so problematic
that workers have little time to get beyond survival needs and deal with
the clients deeper psychological issues. ILSP workers Thana Christian
and Ian Nicolas talk about the odyssey of Abbey.
Abbey didnt have much of a childhood. When she
was 11 she moved in with a friend to get away from her mother, who was
involved in drugs. She moved from the mid-west to California with her
boyfriend when she was 13. Her boyfriend became abusive and she ended
up in a battered womens shelter with her newborn daughter. Leaving
my boyfriend was a huge crisis. I was able to get out, but my social worker
helped me so that I wouldnt end up going back, Abbey recalls.
Christian spoke with Abbeys foster mother and decided to move Abbey out of the home, but unfortunately her only alternative was to move her back into a group home. At first things worked out, but then one of the social workers discovered financial improprieties with the way the group home was administering some of Abbeys financial aid. When the administrator was ordered to refund money to Abbey, the administrator turned against her. Abbey says, I had to deal with a lot of problems, and my daughter had to deal with a lot of problems from the other kids and the group home instructors. The staff would steal and take advantage of people. They would lie on you purposely so you would get in trouble. They would talk with other children and make them miserable. It was a mess.
Its disgusting the way her last landlord
used her and used us, recalls social worker Ian Nicolas. And
we couldnt do much about it.
Nicolas used to be an emancipation assistant, but was promoted to a community worker. Part of his job is to find housing for youth about to emancipate. Im concerned for where she is, but we have no other options. I wouldnt want any child in here. It used to be very clean and well kept up, but since the manager went to jail its declined. I wanted to put her in a more stable place, but the Bay Area rental prices are impossible. I wouldnt be able to afford most of the places I find, and I have a good salary, he says.
Christian spent a large portion of the morning trying to get Abbey a Section 8 housing voucher, only to find that the agency had used up its allotment of vouchers. Christian became so concerned that she began calling her friends and then her church to find out if anyone had any extra housing.
Abbey is in a catch 22. Because she doesnt have
a permanent place to live, it is hard to get her welfare assistance, Temporary
Aid to Needy Families, and child care. Without child care, she cant
go to school to get her high school diploma.
Unfortunately, Abbeys experience is not uncommon. Christian has another teenage mom who was moved four times in five months. Not having a permanent foster home is one of the main complaints of foster youth, along with the rapid turnover in social workers.