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Foster Kids "age Out" Without A Financial Education

When Eddye was a senior in high school, her goal was to save money to buy a car.

“I wanted to make sure I had reliable transportation for college,” she says.

That's a pretty common goal for someone her age. But Eddye faced more hurdles than the average kid. Eddye was “aging out” of the foster care system, which meant she would soon be on her own.

Typically, someone in her situation has to save up for a car by herself, in addition to handling the rest of her finances and responsibilities. Usually that means racking up a lot of debt to pay for it all.

And since Eddye lives in an area without a good public transportation system, a car is a necessity. Without one, her job options are severely limited and getting to class would be difficult.

So what causes kids like Eddye to wind up in situations like that?

The problem is that foster kids aren't taught personal finance skills

When most foster kids age out of the system, they haven't been taught basic money skills. They don't have any experience paying bills or saving money. They don't even have a checking account.

That's actually the norm for all high school kids, as even top-rated schools don't have a personal finance requirement. In fact, only 13 states require high school students to take a personal finance class to graduate, according a survey by the Council for Economic Education.

But a financial education is especially critical for kids aging out of foster care for a few reasons.

For one thing, foster kids usually don't have a safety net. If they lose their job and can't pay rent, that could mean no money for groceries, losing electricity, or even homelessness. After all, they don't have parents who can help them make ends meet. “At 18, a young person is not really ready to be on their own,” says Christine Johnson, who has worked in juvenile justice and child welfare for the last 16 years. “[The age 18] is just a number that we've used, and we've seen disastrous results.”

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