Is there a link between growing up in the foster care system and being homeless as an adult? An area ministry says yes.
A study done by students of Missouri State University for Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission ten years ago found a direct correlation between homeless people in the Joplin area and kids who were raised in the foster care system. Unfortunately those findings have changed a lot, and not for the better.
“So today, ten years later, it’s actually double that, the correlation of homelessness and foster care in the state of Missouri is like 50% and we’ve also seen a rise by a hundred percent of the number of children in foster care,” says James Whitford, Co-founder, Ex. Director, Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission.
Sonny Swartz grew up in a foster home with 12 kids and was homeless too, prior to coming to the mission. He says that statistic doesn’t surprise him at all.
“I’ve seen it happen all the time, sometimes you can stay till your 21, and sometimes you can’t, it just really depends on the person and the situation and when you leave care, you wind up in that mess of where you’re gonna go, what you’re gonna do, some go back to their families where it’s already messed up,” says Sonny Swartz.
Whitford says one of the reasons for that link is that foster kids often times just don’t have a safety net system in case things start to go wrong.
“But it is a result of brokenness in family so whenever we have a breakdown of the family unit, we’re gonna see all sorts of problems that result and homelessness is one of those problems,” says James Whitford.
Swartz and his wife lost their home due to a chemical dependency problem. Since coming to the mission, both are now sober and on their way to getting full time employment. He says allowing kids to age out at 21 instead of 18 is a good start towards reversing the link.
And Swartz says his relationship with God has never been stronger than it is now.