Equipping Policymakers With the Data to Help Transition-Age Young People Thrive
On May 8, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released “Fostering Youth Transitions 2023.” The data brief examines the experiences of teenagers and young adults in foster care as reported by all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. With analysis of comprehensive data spanning 15 years to the present, the report details how young people are faring before and after they leave foster care and how child welfare systems support their transition to adulthood.
“Fostering Youth Transitions 2023” expands on the Casey Foundation’s “Fostering Youth Transitions 2018,” which shed light on older youth in foster care and increased awareness about those who age out. The expanded 2023 report offers state data profiles tracing the experiences of young people ages 14 to 21 who were in foster care between 2006 and 2021, including those who exited without being placed with a permanent family.
The 2023 brief intends to inform and equip federal and state policymakers, child welfare leaders and practitioners and communities with data for decision-making that improves outcomes for young people in and transitioning from foster care.
Analyzed for the Casey Foundation by Child Trends, the new data show:
- For young people ages 14–21 entering foster care, cases reported as “neglect” increased from 29% in 2006 to 48% in 2021. Neglect — not child behavioral problems or abuse — is the reason cited most frequently when older youth enter foster care.
- Nationally, child welfare systems find families for fewer than half of teenagers and young adults in foster care — and proportionately for fewer today than in 2016.
- More states offer extended foster care services and assistance for young people beyond age 18, but enrollment is low. States also inconsistently document participation, which can complicate efforts to ensure that these young people receive services for which they are eligible.
- Although the size of the foster care population is significantly smaller today than in the past, children of color remain overrepresented.
- Too few transition-age teenagers and young adults receive the federally funded services intended to prepare them to thrive when they leave foster care. Fewer than half (47%) of transition-age young people received one or more of the services during all the years they were eligible between 2013 and 2021; less than one quarter (23%) were served in 2021.
“While we are heartened by trends that indicate progress, it is clear from the data that we all have much more to do to ensure that young people in foster care thrive and succeed in adulthood,” said Leslie Gross, director of the Foundation’s Family Well-Being Strategy Group. “It will take investment, public will and policy and practice changes to keep families together, reduce the need to put young people in foster care and ensure that states have the capacity to deliver vital transition services. Most importantly, we must make permanence an absolute priority so young people do not leave care without the permanent and critical connections they need to thrive. In all of this, decision-makers who can influence change must understand that solutions guided by the ideas and expertise of young people with foster care experience will be most likely to succeed.”
Learn more about the Foundation’s efforts to help young people thrive.