(WBTV) - Imagine turning 18 without the support of parents and suddenly losing the support the state had provided for you. That was the case for teenagers aging out of the North Carolina foster care system, until recently.
In an exclusive interview with state officials, we'll tell you about Fostering Success, a program that's helping teens navigate these difficult life transitions to adulthood.
"I turned 18, I thought I'm going to be okay and be fine," Sierra said. "But I wasn't."
Sierra is a participant in the Foster Care 18 to 21 program. In North Carolina, around 500 kids a year turn 18 and they leave the foster care system.
"The statistics for those kids are that they are going to end up in jail, they are going to end up on the streets homeless, or they are going to end up dead," said Ken Maxwell from Seven Homes, A Family Foster Care Program. "The state is trying to do some things."
Fostering Success, is the bill that extends Foster Care to the age of 21. Before that bill was enacted on the 18th birthday of any foster child they were turned out on the streets.
The bill was introduced by Senator Tamara Barringer (R) District 17 - a foster and adoptive mom.
"Even children in stable and loving families are not ready at 18 no matter where they are, whether they finished high-school or not, to face the world," Senator Barringer said.
"They helped me get my car, Sierra said. "They helped me get my life on track."
Erin Baluyot, from Foster Care 18 to 21, says the program allows teens the opportunity to remain in foster care, receive services and benefits that will allow them to transition into adulthood with the support in place.
"In addition to that, there is a monthly foster care maintenance payment involved. Could allow them to pay for rent and an apartment," Baluyot said. "It will allow them to have additional founds to go to school so they can live on their own."
Senator Barringer says this give them an opportunity to learn how to balance a checkbook, to be able to pay bills, to become responsible citizens.
"Every teenager goes through the struggle of moving from being a kid to an adult," Sierra echoed. "And everybody needs support and luckily I got some help."
To learn more about this and other programs that help children, teens, and young adults in foster care, please contact Forever Family in partnership with Seven Homes Family Foster Care at 1-888-365-FAMILY. Or log on to foreverfamily.org.