University of Pittsburgh
August 4, 2015

What's Next for Teens Who Age Out of Foster Care?

Pennsylvania teens leaving the system will gather at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown for annual retreat

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—Teenagers who are in foster-care homes across Pennsylvania and those who have "aged out" of the system will convene on the Pitt-Johnstown campus Aug. 10-14 for the 2015 Older Youth Retreat—an opportunity for the teens to meet others in similar situations, participate in group talks, and learn how to make a successful transition to independent living. The week's activities also include a volleyball tournament, a dance and movie night, arts and crafts, and a talent show.

The theme for this year's retreat is “Youth Always Belong,” and the schedule was designed by the teens, along with representatives from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, the Office of Children, Youth and Families within the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, and other partners.

Approximately 125 young people, ages 16-21, will stay in the campus residence halls as they set goals, examine their education and career options, and make connections with others. In past years, the experience of a week on a college campus has motivated some attendees to pursue a college education and seek out their full potential.

“This retreat allows young people who were, or are presently, in substitute care to work together, experience new things, and learn from peers and staff who are familiar with issues facing the child welfare system,” said Helen Cahalane, principal investigator of Pitt's Child Welfare Education and Research Programs and faculty member in the School of Social Work. Cahalane added that Pennsylvania has made great strides in reducing the number of children in foster care, the length of time children spend in foster care, and in the use of group homes and institutions. These are important steps, she says, toward achieving well-being for all children and families served by the state child welfare system.

A law passed by Congress last fall has shed new light on foster youth across the country. Retreat organizers will be seeking feedback on some of the bill's provisions, including ones giving foster parents more say on whether a youth can participate in age-appropriate activities, such as sports, and allowing foster children, beginning at age 14, to be involved in planning their own transition to adulthood.

Keynote speaker Jeff Yalden will address the group Aug. 13 at approximately 6:45 p.m. at Pitt-Johnstown's Living-Learning Center. A teen author and family life coach for the past 23 years, Yalden will talk to the teens about his own experiences and offer help in dealing with teen drama, depression, expectations, and anxieties.

Visit for more information about the retreat.