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Journey to Justice: Disrupting the Pipeline


Children in the foster care system in the United States are at an increased risk of becoming another number in the justice system. The lack of resources within the foster care system has created a “foster care to prison pipeline” that must be addressed. Nearly 400,000 children are currently in the foster care system in the United States and over 23,000 children will age out of the system annually and are left with no support at the age of just 18. Specific states give these individuals assistance until the age of 21, but it is not common. As a direct result 20 percent of kids who turn 18 while in foster care, will instantly become homeless. Of this total, 90% of these children who have had five or more foster home placements will end up entering the justice system. Female foster youth are ten times more likely than their non-foster peers to commit a crime. At the same time, males are four times more likely. Substance dependence issues are developed by 1 out of every 2 kids who age out of the system. Additionally, 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21. The inequalities foster youth face have created the pipeline and the researchers are focusing on what can be done to begin improving this problem. The researchers intend to offer solutions for change to the foster care system and raise awareness so that more recognition, resources, programming, and aid become available to America’s at-risk youth in foster care.


Alexandra (Alex) Byers is a senior at Salem College double majoring in History and Criminal Studies and minoring in Visual and Performing Arts. She is involved with multiple organizations on campus and has held multiple leadership roles including the president and founder of the Salem Pre-Law Society, Honor Council Chair, Mortar Board Senior Honors Society Vice President, an Orientation Leader, and Fall Fest co-Chair. Alex has interned and worked at two Winston-Salem law firms while attending Salem. She plans to attend law school after graduation and complete a JD degree in order to continue to pursue her passion for justice.

Leigh Wilkins, a senior from Durham, NC, will graduate in May with a double major in Sociology (concentration in Criminology) and Communication. At Salem College her leadership experience has included founding a disability advocacy group, leading the spiritual life group, and serving as secretary for the Pre-Law Society. She has been a Resident Assistant and interned with the Director of Student Support and Conduct. Leigh is focused on learning and making a difference in her community, and she is ready to keep that momentum going as she grows as she starts an internship at Disney after graduation.