I was thinking about life skills and how foster children learn them, and it occurred to me that one of the big problems with ensuring that foster youth turn 18 with the life skills they need to be successful is the inconsistency of life skills instruction, especially if the foster child must move to different homes.
To start, foster homes may or may not be required to implement a life skills curriculum. If foster parents in one home do start a life skills program on their own, they might start it in middle school, or they might wait until high school (which is too long to wait). The skills they teach may be based on a curriculum that they have found or based on their own experiences. They may or may not track the child’s progress and record the experiences the child has had and/or the achievements and progress he/she has made as they teach the skills.
Then, if the child must move to a different home, the new foster parents may or may not teach life skills through any curriculum, much less likely the same one the prior home used. If the new foster parents teach life skills based on their own experience, the foster child might get contradictory information from what his/her prior foster parent(s) shared. Now, add one one or two (or more) foster homes, it is no wonder that ensuring solid life skills by age 18 is so difficult!
My potential solution is to have a standard life skills curriculum that foster children can “take with them” as they move from home to home. It would probably have to be Internet based, as any new foster home would then be able to access that child’s life skills curriculum, see what he/she has accomplished, and then use that same curriculum to keep track of continued progress. It would also have to be adopted by the majority of foster programs in each state to maximize the consistency of the life skills curriculum as the foster child moves from home to home.
I can picture the Aging Out Institute as one day being able to offer a section on the website that would enable a mobile and customizable life skills curriculum for foster children based on research data and best practices discovered throughout the country. There could be sections for individual success stories, Q&A about the curriculum, best practices in applying the curriculum, and so on. Better yet, it could potentially cross state borders. (As a foster youth myself, I started in North Carolina, lived in Maryland for a while, and then ended up in Pennsylvania. A cross-state curriculum would have been a great support as I moved.)
Do you think this is a good idea? Have you seen anything like this out in the foster system? Please let me know!