With Pandemic Relief Set to Expire, Casey Foundation Urges Permanent Foster Care Reforms

New Policy Brief on Supporting Youth and Young Adults Transitioning from Foster Care

Posted September 23, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Older Black male talks with two young people outside

With a nation­al mora­to­ri­um on youth aging out of fos­ter care set to expire on Sept. 30 — lead­ing to thou­sands of young peo­ple fac­ing evic­tion from the fos­ter care sys­tem and fur­ther uncer­tain­ty — the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion is call­ing on state and fed­er­al pol­i­cy­mak­ers to urgent­ly reform and expand the resources, tools and guid­ance young peo­ple need as they move into adulthood.

Toward this end, the Foun­da­tion has released From COVID-19 Response to Com­pre­hen­sive Change: Pol­i­cy Reforms to Equip Youth and Young Adults in Fos­ter Care to Thrive.” The brief urges pol­i­cy­mak­ers to build a reform agen­da that draws on the tem­po­rary pan­dem­ic-relief mea­sures enact­ed in the Sup­port­ing Fos­ter Youth and Fam­i­lies Through the Pan­dem­ic Act and specif­i­cal­ly calls on Con­gress to pass leg­is­la­tion intro­duced in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to extend this emer­gency aid that was appro­pri­at­ed dur­ing the pandemic.

Down­load the brief

Near­ly 900,000 youth and young adults are eli­gi­ble for this crit­i­cal emer­gency relief. When it expires, hun­dreds of thou­sands of young peo­ple will no longer be able to receive extend­ed fos­ter care, hous­ing assis­tance or oth­er well-being resources under this tem­po­rary programming.

Rather than being allowed to expire in the com­ing months — some as soon as next week — these emer­gency mea­sures should serve as build­ing blocks to a com­pre­hen­sive approach to heal­ing, fam­i­ly sta­bil­i­ty and eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty for young people.

Casey rec­om­mends com­pre­hen­sive reforms that would enable child wel­fare agen­cies to build last­ing con­nec­tions for youth and young adults with fam­i­ly and sup­port­ive adults before they reach the age of 18; allow young adults to con­tin­ue receiv­ing ser­vices through age 26; and expand access to age-appro­pri­ate sup­port to bridge their jour­ney from fos­ter care into adult­hood. The Foun­da­tion also calls for greater invest­ment in approach­es aimed at reduc­ing the harm­ful dis­par­i­ties that exist for many Black and Lati­no youth, who com­pared to white peers are over­rep­re­sent­ed in the child wel­fare sys­tem and have a high­er chance of expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness, liv­ing in pover­ty, being unem­ployed and fac­ing oth­er chal­lenges after they age out of fos­ter care.

From COVID-19 Response to Com­pre­hen­sive Change” was devel­oped in con­sul­ta­tion with young peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced fos­ter care. One of its chief rec­om­men­da­tions is that poli­cies gov­ern­ing the sys­tem be devel­oped in part­ner­ship with youth and families.

Tem­po­rary fed­er­al relief pro­vid­ed dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has been crit­i­cal, but the lack of ade­quate ser­vice and sup­port infra­struc­ture across states has been a chal­lenge in real­iz­ing its poten­tial,” says Todd Lloyd, senior pol­i­cy asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion. Con­gress must ensure states are posi­tioned and account­able for a com­pre­hen­sive and ongo­ing approach to serv­ing these youth and young adults if they are to thrive. The poten­tial of such an approach is with­in reach and swift action could serve as a down payment.”

Each year more than 23,000 youth age out of fos­ter care with­out being reunit­ed with their fam­i­lies or devel­op­ing oth­er per­ma­nent rela­tion­ships. These young adults face a much steep­er climb to adult­hood than their peers who have sup­port­ive net­works. The con­se­quences of being with­out fam­i­ly or eco­nom­ic resources makes them more like­ly to strug­gle with unmet health needs, school and work, and they are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence home­less­ness and poverty.

Set­ting a Reform Agen­da Focused on Equi­ty and Well-Being

Pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions in the brief include:

  • Pre­serve and nur­ture fam­i­lies by focus­ing on pre­vent­ing fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion, includ­ing for expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth in fos­ter care; nur­tur­ing healthy fam­i­ly con­nec­tions; and increas­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for youth in fos­ter care to be placed with rel­a­tives or cho­sen family.
  • Ensure child wel­fare agen­cies pri­or­i­tize the unique needs of ado­les­cents by cre­at­ing ado­les­cent youth divi­sions. From ages 14 through 26, young peo­ple are expe­ri­enc­ing a peri­od of rapid growth and devel­op­ment. They need sup­port­ive rela­tion­ships that meet their indi­vid­ual needs and enable them to lead healthy and ful­fill­ing lives.
  • Improve access to sta­ble hous­ing and sup­port by mak­ing fos­ter care avail­able to youth until age 21 in all states.
  • Cre­ate path­ways to suc­cess by expand­ing access to and improv­ing the qual­i­ty of the Chafee program’s sup­port­ive ser­vices to young peo­ple to age 27. The John H. Chafee Fos­ter Care Pro­gram for Suc­cess­ful Tran­si­tion to Adult­hood pro­vides flex­i­ble fed­er­al fund­ing to states, ter­ri­to­ries and Native Amer­i­can tribes to sup­port cur­rent and for­mer fos­ter youth in their tran­si­tion to adult­hood. States can use Chafee fund­ing to pro­vide edu­ca­tion­al assis­tance, career explo­ration, men­tor­ing and pre­ven­tive health activ­i­ties, among oth­er services.

From COVID-19 Response to Com­pre­hen­sive Change” urges greater invest­ment in approach­es to reduce the per­sis­tent and harm­ful dis­par­i­ties that exist for all young peo­ple in fos­ter care:

  • Low-income fam­i­lies of col­or are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly the focus of child pro­tec­tive ser­vices inves­ti­ga­tions for rea­sons includ­ing his­toric sys­temic racism and dis­ad­van­tage, high­er pover­ty rates and greater expo­sure to pro­fes­sion­als who are required by law to report sus­pect­ed child maltreatment.
  • Black youth are over­rep­re­sent­ed in fos­ter care rel­a­tive to the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. They are twice as like­ly to enter fos­ter care as white youth, despite stud­ies that show the occur­rence of abuse or neglect is low­er for Black fam­i­lies than it is for white families.
  • Youth of col­or who enter fos­ter care have dis­parate care­giv­ing expe­ri­ences. They receive few­er famil­ial vis­its, few­er con­tacts with case­work­ers, few­er writ­ten case plans and few­er devel­op­men­tal or psy­cho­log­i­cal assess­ments com­pared with white youth.

Down­load this pol­i­cy brief on fos­ter care reforms for old­er youth

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