Aging Out of Foster Care: In Search of a Lifeline

A GoFundMe account has been set up on the behalf of Peter, a former foster youth who was featured in a story in The Chronicle of Social Change earlier this month. After police impounded his van, Peter carries all his belongings in a large camping backpack. Illustration by Christine Ongjoco.

Let’s check in with Peter again, shall we? Readers of The Chronicle of Social Change may remember the plucky former foster kid from Silicon Valley whose luck went from bad to terrible recently when the police confiscated his $600 “hippie van” — his home, his refuge — after he was caught driving without a registration.

Now, when it’s bedtime, he may sleep in a park or perhaps behind a gas station, hunger sometimes gnawing at his stomach.

To read more about Peter’s struggle with childhood abuse, and growing up in the foster care system only to be cut off from support as a young adult, see The Chronicle’s article published on June 15 as part of its four-part series “Fostering Adults: The State of Care.” 

Today, due to the generosity of readers, there’s some good news to share about Peter, whose full name is being protected because he reported being a victim of sexual abuse by his county pediatrician. It’s no easy feat for traumatized youth like Peter to meet the work and educational mandates required to keep housing and financial assistance after age 18. 

Now,  at age 21, Peter is all on his own, homeless in the even harsher world of independent adulthood, a challenging transition even for youth who have had far more advantages in life. Even without a recession and a global pandemic raging.

Allison Davis Maxon, executive director of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, was moved by Peter’s challenges to find a vehicle to live in. And this week, she created a GoFundMe account on Peter’s behalf. 

As of Friday evening, after just three days, the $2,500 goal was nearly met, with 29 donors contributing $1,979.

Joan McGrane figured she could do her part with a $91 donation. “I got a refund from the U.S. government and I want to share some of it with Peter. Good luck, Peter!,” she commented on Peter’s account page.

“Some people just need a hand up!!” said $200 donor Paul Johnson.

The funds will go toward a replacement vehicle he can live in and hopefully feel safe at night.

On Friday, a reporter contacted Peter to fill him in on the latest. Now it was Peter’s turn to be moved. 

“What? Wow!” he exclaimed. 

Next, he tried to explain people’s generosity, perhaps to himself as much as to the reporter.

“Honestly, people who’ve been through certain situations, they see what I’m going through. And they want to help because they see me for who I am. And they know I’m a good person and they don’t want me to feel like I belong on the streets when I’m trying to change things.”

In the meantime, Peter’s trying to stay healthy, eat less meat and enjoy nature. “I’m cherishing the fact that I’m even alive,” he said.

Chuck Carroll is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. He can be reached at chuckcedits@gmail.com.

Karen de Sá is the Safety Net Reporting Fellow for The Chronicle, and a former investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and The Mercury News. She can be reached at kdesa@chronicleofsocialchange.org.

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