Primary Sources: Easing Foster Youths' Transition to Adulthood

Young people running forward.

To successfully transition to adulthood, young people need “consistent, constructive relationships with at least one experienced adult champion, flexible financial options, stable basics (housing, health services, transportation), clear goals … second chances,” wrote Karen Pittman, executive director of the Forum for Youth Investment, in Washington, DC, last month in Youth Today (PDF).

As Pittman and other advocates for young people have pointed out, many foster youth never get those things. Few states allow young people in the child welfare system to remain in care beyond their 18th birthdays. Once on their own, researchers have found, a significant and growing number of former foster youth face harsh economic realities that keep them from attaining the safe, stable and affordable housing they need.

Several new publications comment on three ways states and child welfare leaders might aid foster youth in their transition to adulthood:

Extend the age youth exit foster care. The authors of Extending Foster Care to Age 21: Weighing the Costs to Government against the Benefits to Youth, from the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall research center, discuss the ways the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 addresses the needs of this vulnerable population. The act allows states to claim federal reimbursement for the costs of caring for and supervising foster youth until their 21st birthdays. The authors assess what the potential costs to government and what the benefits to young people would be if states extended foster care to age 21, estimating that foster youth’s lifetime earnings would increase an average of two dollars for every dollar spent on keeping them in care beyond age 18.

Help youth find permanent families. Financing Policies and Practices that Support Permanency for Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care (PDF), from the Finance Project’s updated Connected by 25 series, aims to help child welfare leaders and program developers find ways to pay for policies and practices that provide permanent families for older youth in foster care. The authors suggest making the best use of child welfare and other federal resources, creating public-private partnerships, making better use of state and local funding, restructuring financial incentives and payments to private providers, and coordinating with other agencies and systems.

Make secure housing available. In another Connected by 25 installment, Financing Housing Supports for Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care (PDF), the authors present financing strategies that include making the most of federal housing, child welfare and community development resources; restructuring payments to private providers; creating public-private partnerships; and improving coordination across systems.

Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications. Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families.

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