Do You Have What It Takes?: A Comprehensive Guide to Success After Foster Care; Edited by Kendra Hurley; Youth Communication; $30.
“Do You Have What It Takes?” is an excellent guide to life after foster care. This book gives you the firsthand experiences of kids who were in foster care: they were either going to age out or they aged out. “Aging out” means growing too old for foster care and moving on to independent life. In the book, a variety of teens tell their story of what it was like to leave or be in care. For example, Christine McKenna, who was in foster care in Los Angeles, tells us about her first day leaving care.
“The day I was emancipating I didn’t really think about it because a lot of other stuff was going on in my life,” McKenna writes. “It didn’t really hit me that I was emancipated until a month later. Then it hit me: I fought five years to be on my own, Now that I had it, did I want it?”
Sometimes aging out of care seems like it’s the best thing – until you are out, with minimal support. Many times it doesn’t hit you until months later. Before you leave home you need to make sure that you’re stable. You should prepare at least one to two years before leaving care.
In New York kids age out of care at the age of 21. Many teens want to leave earlier so they sign themselves out at the age of 18. But oftentimes, they come back into care. Before signing yourself out of care you should make sure that you have everything you need. You need to talk to your social worker; they are there to help you. Leaving care is a big step – you need somewhere to stay, food, a job. The book gives you great tips on what you should do.
I am 16 and I have been in foster care since the age of 10. I have lived in the same home for the past six years. I am going to be adopted by my current foster mother. Being in foster care, to me, is scary at first but then you get used to it. I am still preparing to age out of care. You should always have a backup plan. I am planning to go to the United States Coast Guard Academy. In order to do that, I have to work with the people at my agency. The workers at your agency are here to help you, not be against you. Give them a chance.
“Do You Have What It Takes?” has 10 chapters, each with important facts and tips you should know before you age out of care. Each chapter is about something different, such as how to manage your money, keep a job, and take care of your new home. The book tells you to make sure you have a bank account, and to save your money. It tells you how you should look while going to an interview. It also tells you how you should act. One thing that you should definitely keep in mind is how to keep your home. No one wants to live on the streets. From this book I have learned to keep a support system, and that I should save my money. Having money management skills can save you in life. It also gives you ways to protect yourself if you are going to have sex. Many of the foster care agencies have “independent workshops” that also teach you about this. Many teens need to know how life is going to be after care. “Do You Have What It Takes?” has activity pages at the end of each chapter that you may want to complete.
The guide gives you a clear understanding of what you should do while you are still in care. Being in care isn’t easy, but after reading the guide you will be a little more prepared in life. Everyone needs to know how to set up a budget, or how to cook. The guide gives you lessons that former teens in care learned, like why you shouldn’t clean chicken with dish detergent. This book would be helpful to many teens who don’t know what they’re going to do after care. Many teens are left in the dark. I think after they read this book they will come into the light a little more. Teens need to also remember: asking for help only makes you wiser and stronger.
After reading the book ask yourself, “do you have what it takes?” My answer is yes.
Edrice Richardson is a junior at Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, where she is in the junior ROTC program.