Monday, May 01, 2006

Emotional Risks for Females Aging Out of Foster Care

Young women often emerge from foster care emotionally vulnerable. They have a deep (and legitimate) need for permanency, security and emotional constancy.

And there are men who prey on vulnerable women. Men who might offer to be a "father figure" or a "big brother." Men who offer themselves up as an oasis of safety (and maybe they even mean it at the time)... and then they want more.

Emotional vulnerability can translate into sexual vulnerability. According to the National Survey of Family Growth: “Women who spent time living in foster homes or with relatives other than their parents have an elevated risk of engaging in high risk sexual behaviors.”

These high risk sexual behaviors include:
- Teenage pregnancy (60% risk of unwanted pregnancy)
- A greater number of sexual partners
- Losing their virginity at a younger age as compared to women of “normal” backgrounds.

Two extremes of behavior exist:
- Emotional isolation
- Toxic relationships

One can result from the other. One can feed the other. A woman who is emotionally isolated is more vulnerable to predators. Likewise, a series of dysfunctional relationships might cause some women to fear intimacy and retreat from relationships altogether.

These difficulties can be overcome. I was raped when I was 16 years old. I distrusted men. I feared intimacy. I refused to date for eight years. And, where am I now? Married, to a man who loves me. Stepmother to two wonderful children. There is definitely hope.

My concerns is the "platform syndrome." By that, I mean, whenever I hear about a program for foster alumni, they are up on a platform somewhere. "You went through a hard life, kid, and now you owe it to us to save the world."

Saving the world is great -- I certainly want to do it. But postponing emotional healing is unwise.

When I hear about groups like CYC (California Youth Connection) that limit their members to under 23 years old, I feel concern. Perhaps because I look back at the person I was when I was 23, and I still had some growing and healing to do. Granted, everyone is different, but -

Where are the resources for foster alumni in their 20's who are unlearning all the emotional damage from their childhood?

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Thanks for commenting on my Sunday Scribble about "home", so I could find you here. This work is so important. Bless you.

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