Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and Federal Programs

Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and Federal Programs. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara. November 8, 2016

While most young people have access to emotional and financial support systems throughout their early adult years, older youth in foster care and those who are emancipated from care often face obstacles to developing independent living skills and building supports that ease the transition to adulthood. Older foster youth who return to their parents or guardians may continue to experience poor family dynamics or lack supports, and studies have shown that recently emancipated foster youth fare poorly relative to their counterparts in the general population on several outcome measures.
The federal government recognizes that older youth in foster care and those aging out are vulnerable to negative outcomes and may ultimately return to the care of the state as adults, either through the public welfare, criminal justice, or other systems. Under the federal foster care program, states may seek reimbursement for youth to remain in care up to the age of 21. In addition, the federal foster care program has certain protections for older youth. For example, states must annually obtain the credit report of each child in care who is age 14 and older. States must also assist youth with developing what is known as a transition plan. The law requires that a youth’s caseworker, and as appropriate, other representative(s) of the youth, assist and support him or her in developing the plan. The plan is to be directed by the youth, and is to include specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors, workforce supports, and employment services. Other protections require states to ensure that youth age 14 and older are consulted about the development and revisions to their case plan and permanency plan, and that the case plan includes a document listing certain rights for these youth.

[PDF format, 48 pages, 1.22 MB].

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