North County Lifeline: Bridging the Gap for Transition Age Foster Youth

November 18, 2015

Imagine being 18 years old and completely on your own.

That’s exactly what happens each year to 300 kids in San Diego County who turn 18 and exit the foster care system. These young people are expected to immediately make it on their own with almost no support. Not surprisingly, a significant number of transition age foster youth immediately face insurmountable obstacles:

  • 36% become homeless within 18 months.
  • 51% are unemployed within two to four years.
  • 50% of all female foster youth become pregnant by age 19.
  • 25% are incarcerated within two years. In fact, 70% of California prison inmates are former foster youth.

While the lack of parental support during a foster youth’s formative years contributes to these dismal statistics, it’s very difficult for anyone to be independent at age 18. Kids raised in traditional families receive parental support long after age 18 and most don’t achieve independence until age 26. Kids exiting foster care are generally even less prepared to be self-sufficient.

North County Lifeline’s “LifeSpring” program was created in 2013 through a partnership between North County Lifeline and HomeAid; offering beds for up to five youth in our LifeSpring house. The program’s capacity has since increased to ten full units in a new apartment complex developed by Community Housing Works.

In addition to housing, LifeSpring provides transition age foster youth with counseling services that help them bridge the gap between foster care and independence:

  • Each youth is assigned a Lifeline case manager who provides daily support to help them achieve their educational, employment, and financial objectives.
  • LifeSpring delivers a workshop series that provides social emotional education, builds employment competencies, and develops social networking skills.
  • Transition age youth do not have families to help them cover unexpected expenses. LifeSpring steps in by assisting with move in costs and emergency cash.

Often it’s just the small things that become obstacles preventing transition age youth from becoming self-reliant: Just $25 can help buy move-in essentials for setting up a first independent home; $60 can purchase a one month bus pass, eliminating transportation problems that prevent youth from making it to school or work; and $600 can buy a year’s worth of clothing, including the all-important “job interview clothes”.

One youth in the LifeSpring program recently summed up his experiences this way: “When someone mentions foster youth, they only see the statistics – they see failure”. We invite you join North County Lifeline in helping our transition age youth beat these odds and bridge the gap from foster care to self-reliance.

Together we can provide a lifeline to transition age youth in need of our help.

Donald Stump

Executive Director, North County Lifeline


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