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City Kids Struggle as They Age Out of Foster Care

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As hundreds of kids are aging out of the city's foster care system, it is unclear what their future will hold. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

It's not exactly clear where Mercedes Rodriguez will end up.

Rodriguez: They just said you are going to discharge yourself, fine. They had the meeting and let me go.

Q: And where did you go?

Rodriguez: I was out here, like now.

Out here is 41st St. outside of a youth shelter.

It's not the only place she's gone.

"The Port Authority, different places," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez checked herself out of foster care when she turned 18.

Soon after, she was back on the street.

Advocates claim hundreds of kids leaving the foster care system could share a similar story - they age out and have nowhere to go.

Like Shayna Alicea when she turned 21.

"All they said was I had to go to a shelter," said Alicea. "They picked up the rest of my stuff from my foster mom's house and that's all they could tell me."

"We don't discharge children to homelessness," said Benita Miller from ACS.

Miller is the city's deputy commissioner who oversees foster care. She says the city doesn't track where kids that age out go.

NY1 asked for statistics to see if other kids like Shayna or Mercedes were out there. But according to city officials, once they age out it's out of their hands.

"We are a time-limited system. And if you ask young people, or anybody, 'Do you want ACS involved in your life for the long term?' Most people would tell you, 'No,'" said Miller.

The city's child welfare agency is legally required to make sure foster kids are prepared to live on their own - the subject of a lawsuit two years ago.

"Despite the settlement there have been problems in terms of providing the necessary services and supervision and particularly the housing," said Steve Banks, a legal aid.

The city has just 100 apartments set aside specifically for kids aging out of foster care.

Shayna got one of them.

Mercedes, on the other hand, is asking ACS to come back for another two years until she turns 21.

"Hopefully they will help me this time to get my stuff together," said Rodriguez.

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