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Housing, Other Challenges Face WA Youth After Foster Care

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Monday, November 29, 2021   

SEATTLE - The holidays can be a tough time for young people who have aged out of the foster-care system. For young Washingtonians, housing is an especially big concern.

An Annie E. Casey Foundation survey found, among young people in Washington who'd been in foster care after their 17th birthday, one-third had experienced homelessness by age 21.

Blandy Imzumza is a student at Seattle University who recalled living in a van with her three-year-old after aging out of the system. She said the holidays are challenging.

"Especially when you're a teenager," said Imzumza, "you don't know who you're going to hang out with or what you're going to do since that's what everybody else is talking about and looking forward to. It can be depressing and sad and lonely."

The Casey Foundation says nearly 1,100 children were in foster care in Washington as of 2019.

Imzumza said some of the barriers for teenage mothers who have been part of the foster-care system often are overlooked. She said young moms can struggle even when they have a job.

"You can't afford to do as much as you wish you wish you did for your kids," said Imzumza. "So, that's something that I think is left out a lot."

Surveys from the Annie E. Casey Foundation find about one in twenty foster care youth who were in the system for their 17th birthday had had a child.

Imzumza said one crucial organization for her has been Treehouse in Seattle, where the staff has guided her through hard times - helping her get housing and clothing for herself and her children, and to sign up for school.

She added it isn't easy to ask, but there's no shame in connecting with support systems like Treehouse.

"It just takes courage from you to reach out for that help and ask," said Imzumza. "Because nine times out of ten, they want to help you with everything that they possibly can."




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