How Child Welfare Leaders Can Help Older Youth During COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted April 15, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Helping youth who are aging out of foster care during COVID-19

As the nation grap­ples with the pub­lic health cri­sis of COVID-19, child wel­fare sys­tems must pri­or­i­tize the urgent and unique needs of old­er youth in fos­ter care and those who have left (or aged out of) fos­ter care with­out per­ma­nent fam­i­ly con­nec­tions. These young peo­ple, who are espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble, rely on fos­ter care sys­tems for their safe­ty, health and well-being.

Pro­tect­ing old­er youth in fos­ter care — and even those who have aged out and are out on their own — is a mat­ter of life and death dur­ing this kind of glob­al cri­sis,” says San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, vice pres­i­dent of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Cen­ter for Sys­tems Inno­va­tion. These are young peo­ple who have already lost so much — they are no longer with their birth fam­i­lies, they’ve been uproot­ed from famil­iar homes and neigh­bor­hoods, they’ve lost touch with friends along the way. We can’t fail them. We must do bet­ter on their behalf and act deci­sive­ly and com­pas­sion­ate­ly to ensure they weath­er this pandemic.”

The Casey Foun­da­tion urges action on the fol­low­ing pri­or­i­ty needs:

  • Meet imme­di­ate, basic needs for hous­ing, food and oth­er sup­ports. Now is the time to lever­age state poli­cies and resources and max­i­mize fed­er­al resources and oppor­tu­ni­ties under the Fam­i­ly First Act and the Chafee Fos­ter Care Pro­gram for Suc­cess­ful Tran­si­tion to Adult­hood to sup­port all young peo­ple over 18 who exit­ed fos­ter care in meet­ing their basic needs until at least age 23 dur­ing this cri­sis. These resources and poli­cies should include ensur­ing young people’s access to stim­u­lus checks, direct stipends through inde­pen­dent liv­ing, room and board assis­tance and health care through Medicaid.
  • Estab­lish a mora­to­ri­um on youth aging out of fos­ter care for at least six months beyond the end of the imme­di­ate cri­sis. Of the near­ly 20,000 young peo­ple who leave fos­ter care each year with­out a per­ma­nent fam­i­ly, 28% expe­ri­ence homelessness.
  • Allow old­er youth to enter or reen­ter extend­ed fos­ter care. All young peo­ple over 18 who are in or have left fos­ter care should be able to remain or reen­ter regard­less of cur­rent state and fed­er­al cri­te­ria or eli­gi­bil­i­ty. This means sus­pend­ing school and work eli­gi­bil­i­ty criteria.
  • Enable old­er fos­ter youth to appoint their own next of kin for med­ical issues. Giv­en antic­i­pat­ed health emer­gen­cies dur­ing this pan­dem­ic, young peo­ple 18 and old­er who have aged out of fos­ter care or who have cho­sen extend­ed fos­ter care should be able to appoint their own next of kin of any rela­tion (fam­i­ly or otherwise).
  • Pro­vide finan­cial sup­port to med­ical­ly frag­ile old­er fos­ter youth. Social Secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits should be paid direct­ly to the young person.
  • Pro­vide imme­di­ate health care cov­er­age to all young peo­ple with fos­ter care expe­ri­ence. Med­ical debt can lead to long-term finan­cial chal­lenges. It is crit­i­cal that young peo­ple know they can seek the med­ical atten­tion they need and not have to wor­ry about finan­cial ruin.
  • Increase finan­cial assis­tance and resources for expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth. Young par­ents and those expect­ing must have access to appro­pri­ate health care for them­selves and their chil­dren to ensure their well-being.

Many of us are shel­ter­ing at home with our fam­i­lies, and many young peo­ple who left fos­ter care with­out per­ma­nent con­nec­tions don’t have tra­di­tion­al homes and fam­i­lies to stand with them dur­ing this chal­leng­ing time,” says Leslie Gross, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive®, which works to ensure that young peo­ple with fos­ter care expe­ri­ence have the resources, rela­tion­ships and oppor­tu­ni­ties they need to thrive. Hous­ing and employ­ment down­turns will hit young peo­ple espe­cial­ly hard and they are less like­ly to have the adult sup­port to help them nav­i­gate these tough days.”

All young peo­ple need sol­id con­nec­tions, sup­ports and resources to help them thrive in all sit­u­a­tions and espe­cial­ly in times of cri­sis. Child wel­fare lead­ers, advo­cates, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, phil­an­thropists and oth­ers must work with com­mu­ni­ties, young peo­ple, fam­i­lies and sys­tems to improve poli­cies and prac­tices to help youth and young adults. These rec­om­men­da­tions are crit­i­cal first steps.

Tips to Help Young Par­ents Cope Dur­ing the Coro­n­avirus Pandemic

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families