Equipping Policymakers With the Data to Help Transition-Age Young People Thrive

Posted May 10, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A multiracial group of young people beam at the camera. A girl in the foreground holds the camera, so the photo is selfie style. The friends stand in front of a school building, blooming trees in the background.

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.

View or Down­load the Press Release

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.

Down­load Fos­ter­ing Youth Tran­si­tions 2023

Ana­lyzed for the Casey Foun­da­tion by Child Trends, the new data show:

  • For young peo­ple ages 1421 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.

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