The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a time full of excitement, growth, and change. Critical brain development occurs during adolescence and early adulthood, and can be supported by strong and stable connections with family, friends, and community. With these supportive connections, young people can grow into healthy adults. Youth and young adults with foster care experience often miss out on some of the key resources needed during this time, reducing their chances to locate safe and stable housing, find steady and meaningful employment, and build strong and positive relationships with members of their social networks. They are more likely to experience homelessness and involvement with the justice system and less likely to graduate from high school or college. With support from the Better Housing Coalition and Children’s Home Society of Virginia, Child Trends conducted a national survey of state independent living coordinators (Survey on Services and Supports for Young People Transitioning from Foster Care). Survey findings, collected in 2016, are based on responses by Independent Living Coordinators from 47 of 52 states and territories contacted. They describe the array and availability of services and supports for youth and young adults who have experienced foster care, highlighting state trends and examples of innovation in six major service areas: 1) post-secondary education; 2) employment and career development; 3) financial capability; 4) safe, stable, and affordable housing; 5) health and mental health care; and 6) permanent relationships with supportive adults. Several key findings stand out as particularly critical:
- Although foster care is almost always available in some form to youth over age 18, three quarters of states report that most young people leave foster care before the maximum age permitted.
- Across every category, the service array is similar for youth ages 18 to 21 in foster care and those 18 to 21 who have left foster care.
- There is a steep drop off in available services and supports as soon as young people reach age 21, the age of legal majority in most states.
- Partnerships with other agencies are a key part of supporting this population. Independent Living Coordinators from child welfare state agencies reported that they work with several other state agencies to develop and deliver services for transition-age youth.
- Many states are adopting evidence-based or evidence-informed programs or practices, but there is much room for growth.
- Housing was the area most commonly reported as being in need of improvement. (Author introduction)