Youth in Preparation for Independent Living Have Lower Life Satisfaction and a Higher Prevalence of Suicidal Thoughts
- Date 2021-11-23
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Youth in Preparation for Independent Living Have Lower Life Satisfaction Scores and a Higher Prevalance of Suicidal Thoughs than the General Youth Population, Requiring Strengthened Socioeconomic and Psycho-emotional Support
■KIHASA (President Lee Tae Soo) has published Health and Welfare Issue & Focus No. 410, "Improving Aftercare Support for Youth in Preparation for Independent Living," based on a 2020 survey study, "The Needs and Independent-Living Preparedness of Children Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care." Its lead author is Lee Sang-Jung, head of the Center for Child Welfare Research at KIHASA.
■"Indicators suggest that youth in preparation for independent living, as compared to general youth, are worse off in terms of health, psycho-emotional state, social relationship, housing, education, employment and economic conditions. Youth who have aged out of foster care lack psycho-emotional support and social network, both essential for them to cope with the challenges they face as they wend their way along to independent living," said Dr. Lee, adding, "An estimated 61.6 percent of youth in transition to independent living are living alone, who, as they have no parents or have little contact with them, are unlikely to have support from their own family. They receive less social support than they did when they were in the foster care system. The relationship they have fostered with their facility guardians or foster parents tend to wane over time. All this brings to the fore the need for providing socioeconomic and psycho-emotional support for these young people." Saying that in their third or fourth year out of foster care, their life satisfaction had been at its lowest and their prevalence of suicidal ideation at its highest and that a high percentage of these youth had experienced difficulties as regards housing in their fourth or fifth year after leaving the foster care system, she pointed out the the need for continued support for youth out of foster care until they can successfully transition to independent living.
What follows is a summary of this issue of Health and Welfare Issue & Focus.
1. The system of support for youth in preparation for independent living
■Article 38 of the Child Welfare Act, which pertains to assistance for children in transition from foster care to independent living, provides that the national government and local authorities establish and manage aftercare for these young people.
- There are only 8 localities--cities and provinces--nationwide that have in place an agency tasked exclusively with providing independent-living support to youth who are whithin 5 years after having aged out of foster care and to children who are about to age out of the system.
- The situation in these localities, adverse as it is especially to children who, on top of having no self-support assistance agency to turn to, live in a group home or a foster home with no officer to provide them support in their transition to independent living, adds to inter-programmatic disparities in the delivery of independent-living support.
2. Improving aftercare with strengthened support for youth in transition to independent living
■The government announced its "Plan for Enhancing Support for Children Transitioning Out of Foster Care," which includes measures to put in place independent-living support agencies nationwide and recruit an additional 120 workers to provide independent-living support to youth in transition to independent living. But what was absent were measures as to how local governments should be supported to establish and operate their independent-living support agencies, where these additional workforce resources are to be stationed. Nor is there a concrete plan afoot for linking and integrating independent-living support services that have been provided in fragmented ways by different providers. The brief presents the following as recommended to achieve effective support for youth in preparation for independend living:
- First, the aftercare system for youth in preparation for independent living should be considered, from a life course perspective, as an extension of the child protective service delivery system;
- Second, there is a need to reduce regional and inter-programmatic disparities in independent-living support;
- Lastly, in order for independent-living support officers to function as an official psycho-emotional support mechanism for youth in preparation for independent living, as a workforce they need to be so reinforced as to match the number of youth eligible for aftercare. The current count is that each independent-living support officer has to provide aftercare services for over 70 youth in preparation for independent living. The workforce of independent-living support officers needs to be further reinforced so that the number of youth one officer manages is reducted to 30.