MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but there are some struggling more than others.

Many of them are young adults who’ve been in the foster care system. Now they’re on their own, trying to make ends meet.

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Through the end of September, foster kids who are about to age out of the system are eligible for some extra help.

For some the pandemic, not only impacted their financial security, but the support systems they depend on every day.

“What we’re seeing is really survival tactics that are helping them survive right now,” Foster Advocates Founder and Executive Director Hoang Murphy said.

Murphy is a former foster youth himself.

“You’re in foster care 100% all the time,” he said.

His team conducted a survey last summer looking at the pandemic’s impact on current and former foster youth ages 14 to 26 across Minnesota.

“There isn’t a place to just simply be a kid,” he said. “At school you get to provide that. No one knows that you’re in foster care, you can just hang out with your friends, you can just be yourself.”

A change to remote learning came with new challenges for some kids in care.

“You’re logging on, people are going to see that you’re in a group home. They’re going to see that you’re in residential treatment,” Murphy said. “They’re going to see, you know the loud speaker go over in the background and kids are going to wonder and they’re going to ask, and there’s not gonna be really a place to address that.”

Of the more than 150 survey respondents, more than 80% described being negatively impacted by COVID. Thirty-three percent described losing a job. Twenty-one percent reported living situations affected by the pandemic, a number that almost doubles for those over age 21 (38%).

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“What we have been seeing for young people who have aged out of care is deep homelessness and hunger,” Murphy said.

“Any extra help that they can get is really critically important,” Tikki Brown, assistant commissioner for children and family services for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said.

Efforts are underway to get relief into the hands of foster youth.

“We’re really hopeful that this will help retain some stability for folks. We know this is a vulnerable population,” Brown said.

Right now, temporary federal changes are making it possible for foster youth to receive more care. There’s a moratorium on aging out of the system until the end of September for 18- to 21-year-olds in the extended care program. An estimated 770 eligible youth who remain or re-enter are eligible for money, too.

“We received these funds back in March and the funds do expire at the end of September,” Brown said.

The money can be used for food and housing, college education expenses, drivers licenses and behavioral health.

Brown said the base payments are $964 with recipients getting about $1,100 dollars on average. The department has been working with county and tribal partners to spread the word.

Hennepin County distributed $200,000 in federal COVID relief funds to groups working with current and former foster youth in December. Just under 130 young people received those one-time $1,500 payments in the county.

Some foster youth may also be eligible for direct $200 dollar from the Department of Human Services. A survey must be completed to begin the process.

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For more information about Foster Advocates and relief available for current and former foster youth, click here.

Shayla Reaves