Having a disability presents distinctive challenges for young adults transitioning to independent adulthood. Disabled youth with a history of foster care experience even more significant obstacles, such as being two times as likely to suffer maltreatment in the child welfare system (Larson and Anderson 2005).
The term “disability” refers to a wide range of mental and physical impairments that can vary in degree but can ultimately limit a person’s ability to participate in major life activities, capacity to work, and normal body functioning. It is estimated that around 30-40% of youth in foster care are enrolled in special education and 8% have physical impairments, a much larger percentage than the general population (National Council on Disability). Youth with disabilities suffer higher rates of abuse, leading to overrepresentation in the child welfare system where they are likely to face further abuse by poorly trained social workers, staff, and/or foster parents. Adequate funding for training, accessibility to services and resources, and policies based on current research at all levels, local, state, and federal, is essential to support this vulnerable population.
The Permanent Supportive Housing program at COMPASS supports young adults with disabilities by placing them in accessible and affordable housing, linking them with mental and physical health services, assisting with applying for government assistance like disability payments and CalFresh benefits, and providing life skills training. With the announcement of David & Margaret’s merger with Haynes Family of Programs, transitional age youth with disabilities have more access to programs tailored to their needs, like special education and vocational training.
Young adults with disabilities and a history of foster care deserve the same independence and dignity of all people, which should be reflected through the care and support received from the child welfare system. Please check out COMPASS Programs Donation Tier list to learn how you can make a material difference in the lives of transitional age youth on their journey to independence!