DENVER (CBS4) – When teens age out of the foster care system without being adopted, they often face unemployment, homelessness, and in some cases jail. Having parents makes that transition to adulthood much easier.
Tish Mead was not that lucky. Currently, she’s on the verge of applying to nursing school. She goes to college part time at Metro State University, and works full time as a nursing assistant. She says school has been her safe haven.
“I used school as a way to escape the chaos that was going on in my life,” Mead told CBS4.
CBS4 SPECIAL REPORTS: Aging Out
At the age of 8, Mead went into foster care. In 4 years she was in 12 different homes.
“Constantly worrying about where I was going to sleep, what I was going to eat for dinner, if I was going to see my family or not, all those sorts of things were very much a priority for me,” Mead said.
From ages 12 to 17, she was able to stay in one home, but then suffered the disappointment of a failed adoption.
“Fighting depression during that time in my life and just trying to stay focused on the prize. And that was, at that point, just graduating high school,” Mead explained.
At age 18, she was on her own.
“I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have anyone who would co-sign for me,” she said.
She got accepted to college, but needed to work to support herself.
“My credit at the time was poor because while in foster care and while growing up, my biological parents used my identity to pay for Xcel bills and other things. So my credit was shot as soon as I turned 18,” Mead recalled.
She called it terrifying.
“I just found myself scared, worried, unsure, and unequipped. I just didn’t feel I was ready to get out there and tackle all of the challenges that were coming my way.”
Mead has tackled the challenges. At age 23, she’s now applying to become a foster parent for her 15-year-old brother. She hopes to make his transition to adulthood a little easier.
“It’s brutal … really it’s brutal out there. And if you don’t have all the necessary supports to help, not only guide, but also to help you figure out that you’re looking at … it’s … I can only imagine,” Mead said.
The Adoption Exchange specializes in finding adoptive families for older children in the foster care system.
Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.