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Family, Friendships and Love After Aging Out Of Foster Care

A graphic of a yellow figure pulling a brown suitcase between two houses.
Maris Ava Cruz
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Young people aging out of foster care are often faced with the responsibility for creating their own systems of support as well as finding housing and education.

Once kids in the foster care system become legal adults, they’re often out on their own to find housing, jobs, and education. But they are also redefining healthy relationships in the aftermath of complicated relationships with parents and family life.

Whether or not you are close to the folks who raised you, their ways of parenting, advice-giving and boundary setting leave their mark. For the over 400,000 young people in the U.S. foster care system, growing up in multiple households can make those parental dynamics more complicated. And when those young people leave the system at 18, they’re often faced with the responsibility of creating their own systems of support and care.

Host Anita Rao talks with two people about how aging out of the foster care system shaped how they build connection and community in their lives today. Ángela Quijada-Banks is a holistic purpose coach and transformational speaker. She is also the NAACP Image Awards nominated author of “The Black Foster Youth Handbook.” And Stephani Smith works in mental health care and runs a YouTube account where she shares stories of her experience in foster care.

Rao also talks with Jessica Lloyd-Rogers, the chair of the National Foster Parent Association’s Council of State Affiliates, about how her experience in foster care influenced her parenting style with her biological daughter and with her foster children.

Interview Highlights

Stephani Smith on how her desire for independence affected her relationships at age 18:

I think I was really trying to be so strong, and I felt like something about turning 18 would be like a switch had turned off and I would just be Superwoman out here taking care of everything by myself. ... Because for most of my life, my life was in other people's hands, and I wanted so badly to take that power back. And so for me to say: Hey, I need help with something — it was almost impossible, because I felt like that would be me admitting defeat. Whereas now, you know, I really utilize the tools and relationships that I have in order to have support and just be a better person.

Ángela Quijada-Banks on establishing a healthy relationship with herself in order to establish healthy relationships with others:

I think in the majority of my relationships, I almost created a persona to survive, to feel accepted, to feel like this person cared about me. And it automatically, of course, would backfire. ... I didn't understand what I needed to do, how could I connect with myself really, fully, purposefully, and create those relationships to feel genuine love. … That's the key point, is that I learned, like, this isn't working out. And this isn't giving me the results that I thought it would. So I'm gonna have to talk to some people that are having really great relationships and learn from them, and grow and completely throw away that idea that apparently I'd married that I have to be this certain type of person to be loved and cared for and to establish some intimacy between other human beings.

Jessica Lloyd-Rogers on how she approached foster parenting as a former foster youth herself:

Our only rule was: Be nice to yourself and to other people. Because what we found is a lot of the young people who came into our house were really unkind to themselves. So, we know where they learned that. They either saw it modeled toward them, or they felt like they weren't worth anything, and they weren't worth self respect, and they weren't worth loving. And so the biggest key which, as it turned out, my husband and I pretty much did instinctively, was just listening.

Have questions or want to reach out?

Jessica offered to be reachable by email for anyone with questions about foster care, foster parenting and advocacy: jessica.lloyd.rogers@gmail.com

Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.