Robert P.K. Mooney, former foster youth and author of A Foster Kid’s Road To Success came by to bring awareness to the foster care system.
Robert was in the foster care system for 12 years. He started in the foster care system when he was six years old with his six full biological siblings. For the most part, they were separated into different homes, though from time to time he was with one or more of his siblings. Ultimately, he changed homes twenty times, had a couple of failed reunification attempts, and then eventually aged out of the system at 18.
When a foster kid reaches 18, if he or she doesn’t have a permanent home, and hasn’t been reunited with family, then they “age out” and are legally on their own. Some states do provide extended foster care services through the age of twenty-one for aged-out youth, but it is a daunting prospect.
What normally happens to teenagers who age out?
The results are generally pretty grim. They currently have over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, and over 20,000 of those foster youth will age out in 2021. One in five of those youth will become instantly homeless, while half of them will experience homelessness before the age of 22. Educational opportunities are scarce, with only 3% of aged-out foster youth obtaining a college degree. The result is that by the time aged out youth is 24 years old, only half of them have gainful employment, and of the ones who do find employment, earn, on average, only half of the wages of their similarly aged peers from the general population.
Luckily, Robert didn’t have this outcome. He learned several critical life lessons and skills that enabled him to go to college, graduate with a degree in finance, obtain two law degrees, and then have a very successful legal and business career. More importantly, he was able to find deep, meaningful human connections, none more important than his wife of twenty years and their five children.
Two years ago, Robert left his business practice to spend time with his young family, and to write books to and about teens in foster care, and now he spends his time advocating for foster youth around the country. He released his first book, A Foster Kid’s Road To Success, last year. It is written directly to teens in foster care, and it shares the six principles teens in care need to understand to successfully age out of foster care.
Robert teamed up with the Christmas Box International, a local non-profit charity that has been serving foster children in Utah for over twenty-five years to get this book to teens in care and the organizations that serve them. Generous donors have donated and can donate to the Christmas Box International specifically to purchase and distribute copies of A Foster Kid’s Road To Success to those who need it most. He then distributed the books to teens in care around the country. Robert regularly speaks to groups of older teens in care, to foster parents, and to people who work in the foster care system, sharing my experience as both foster youth and as a foster parent, and help teach principles needed to help older foster teens succeed. To date, copies of the book have been donated to foster youth in seventeen states, and they would like to get a copy into the hands of every teen likely to age out of foster care. And again, that is about 20,000 teens per year, with about 80,000 of those teens being the age where they can benefit from my book.