Child welfare leaders report difficulties funding supports for youth transitioning from foster care

September 25, 2019

New Child Trends research finds that child welfare leaders report insufficient funding for services focused on helping youth transition out of foster care. Findings from Funding Supports and Services for Young People Transitioning from Foster Care are based on interviews with 19 child welfare leaders from eight jurisdictions across the country: Alameda County, California; Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; Colorado; Illinois; Indiana; North Carolina; North Dakota; and Tennessee.

Child welfare leaders in these jurisdictions reported difficulties funding skill development services for youth aging out of care and services that connect these youth to supportive adults. Additionally, these leaders reported challenges funding services for youth after they reach a certain age (and become ineligible for certain programs) and coordinating funding streams and services to leverage resources for youth outside of the child welfare system.

“While many young adults receive emotional and financial support from their parents throughout their early twenties, youth aging out of foster care often have limited or no connections to family,” said Lynn Tiede, a child welfare consultant and lead author. “It is not surprising that the challenges they have faced place them at higher risk for negative outcomes such as homelessness and unemployment. Yet, we do not need to accept those outcomes. With continued support past age 18, we can help these youth overcome the challenges they have faced.”

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 gave states the option to receive federal reimbursement for extended foster care up to age 21 and federal legislation has required states to provide some young people who age out of foster care with access to Medicaid until age 26. There is also a federal funding stream dedicated to this population: the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood. However, this research highlights that current funding levels are still not able to provide youth with all the support they need to make a successful transition to adulthood.

“There are a number of federal programs, including those focused on housing, education, and the workforce, that aim to support youth aging out of care. Our study indicates that resources like these could be stronger in the jurisdictions we examined so agencies can continue to support older youth in and transitioning out of foster care,” said Kristina Rosinsky, a child welfare expert at Child Trends and co-author of the report.

To better support youth aging out of foster care, child welfare leaders can how:

  1. Increased funding levels could better support the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood, which helps prepare older youth in care to successfully transition to adulthood.
  2. To take advantage of the Title IV-E Foster Care Program funding. States can choose to extend their Title IV-E Foster Care Program to age 21 and receive Title IV-E reimbursement for those costs, assuming the youth meet certain criteria such as school or work participation.
  3. To leverage new opportunities under the Family First Prevention Program, which will allow states to be reimbursed for trauma-informed, evidence-based prevention services for children and youth at risk of entering foster care and their family, as well as for pregnant and parenting foster youth. Effective prevention programs for adolescents can help reduce the number of older youth in foster care and in need of extended supports past age 18.
  4. To improve state and local coordination across funding sources. State and local coordination can maximize funding that is already available and help jurisdictions create a comprehensive array of services and supports for these youth.

The research was sponsored by Youth Villages, an organization that helps children, families and young people across the country and advocates for positive change to state and federal child welfare policies and systems.

Child Trends is the nation’s leading research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives of children and youth, especially those who are most vulnerable.