New study reveals many Indiana foster kids struggle as they age out of system

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A study released Tuesday sheds light on the struggles Indiana's foster children face as they get older. The numbers reveal the impact moving around throughout the formative years can have on foster youth's long-term success and the additional support that may be required for them.

The comprehensive data delves into the experiences of teens who are close to aging out of the child welfare system. According to the findings, individuals who spend years in foster care tend to lag behind when it comes to getting their high school diploma, finishing college or getting a job.

Jada Cuttris went into foster care at age 16 and spent time in two homes. She says she is thankful to the adults in her live who didn't allow those changes in her life to interrupt her educations.

"I was lucky to be able to stay in the same school," Cuttris. "I had a case worker who drove me from Plainfield to Eminence. It was a 45 minute drive."

Now, Cuttris is a college student at IUPUI working to become a social worker. While she has made it to this point, she says the process can be hard for foster kids who do not have a home base.

"The dorms close during breaks and then they have nowhere to go," she said. "They have to get a job to find somewhere to stay and then a lot of them end up dropping out of college."

The group Indiana Connected by 25 help put this latest report together based on state and federal data.

"[Foster youth have] often been denied the same educational opportunities that other youth have," said Brent Kent, CEO of Indiana Connected by 25. "They’ve been delayed in their educational journey because of school transitions."

According to the report, about one third of Hoosier kids in foster care are aging out or emancipating.

"That means, as a community and as a state, we have not reunited them with their families or found them new families," Kent said.  "One in five foster youth who age out of care or emancipate  will be homeless within two years of leaving state’s custody."

Cuttris said providing the right resources to teens as they near the end of their time in the state's care can have a big difference.

"We all need support going through this especially at 18 ,19,20," Cuttris said. "Those are the years when you’re just trying to figure out yourself. We’re still kids. We’re still trying to learn and grow up and do the same things."

The Indiana Department of Child Services director announced in June the agency planned to expand services to foster youth up to age 23. The agency made the recommendation to lawmakers ahead of the upcoming session.