Impact Story: Dwayne
Oftentimes when one thinks of foster care, they imagine foster “kids.” However, in the United States, 115,395 out of 423,997 youth in foster care in 2019 were between 13 and 20 years old.¹ Teens and young adults in foster care require different types of individualized care.
At Alternative Family Services (AFS), caseworkers and resource parents (aka foster parents) receive specialized training in how to support older youth. In California, Assembly Bill 12 extends foster care services and support to young adults between 18 and 21 years old, which allowed Dwayne* to become an AFS client when he was 19 years old. Dwayne is on the Autism spectrum and has rigid thinking. Growing up, he experienced homelessness, neglect and likely some form of abuse.
One of Dwayne’s residual traumas was associated with getting on a bus. An important part of working with older youth in foster care is preparing them for independence. Part of being independent is their ability to use transportation to school, work, medical appointments, the store, etc. At first, when Dwayne’s caseworker, Eliza, discussed with him the idea of riding the bus, it triggered anxiety and a negative emotional reaction. Eliza knew riding a bus was a critical for Dwayne to become more self-reliant. Eliza strategized with fellow clinicians and formed a comprehensive treatment plan.
For almost one year, Dwayne participated in regular therapy and learned Independent Living Skills (ILS). One day during one of his sessions, Dwayne agreed to ride the bus. For weeks prior to his bus ride, Eliza role-played and helped Dwayne visualize the entire bus riding experience from start to finish. When the visualization triggered a negative reaction, Dwayne practiced using the anxiety reduction techniques and positive self-talk he had learned.
The day finally arrived for the bus ride, and Dwayne was ready but nervous. Eliza took a “Community-Based Therapy” approach and met Dwayne at the bus stop. She supported him through difficult memories about his past. The two boarded the bus and successfully reached their destination, Jamba Juice. Both were elated Dwayne achieved such a milestone on his journey towards greater independence.
Weeks later, and after several joint bus trips with Eliza, Dwayne was able to ride the bus on his own. Eventually, he became a master at taking transit, whether it was Uber or the bus. By age 21, after two years of working with Eliza, he had enough mental and emotional tools to officially age out of foster care. Overcoming his fear of public transportation gave Dwayne enough courage and freedom to interview and ultimately find a job interview.
Because of the caring and committed AFS network of staff, resource parents, community and business partners and donors, Dwayne was able to secure housing on his own and live life independently. Dwayne periodically checks in with Eliza, who was happy to report Dwayne continues to have stable employment and housing.
*Aliases are used to protect client identities.
While portions of “Direct Client Services” are funded through county contracts (i.e. caseworker salaries) bus passes and Jamba Juice are paid for by AFS with the generous support of donations.
- Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY 2019 data