Every year, more than 23,000 youth age out of foster care without finding permanency or being placed with a family. These youth face extremely poor adult outcomes such as homelessness, reliance on public assistance, and incarceration.
Research shows that even the most privileged youth face challenges to making a successful transition to adulthood: On average, most young people do not achieve independence until age 26, and they rely on a significant amount of financial and moral support from their families to get there. By contrast, youth aging out of the child welfare system were traditionally expected to be independent at age 18.
Re-entering foster care in Pennsylvania.
Beginning in 2008, the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act encouraged states to extend foster care to youth until age 21 in exchange for federal funding to help underwrite this change. To date, about one-half the states have enacted laws or policies to extend foster care past age 18.
Juvenile Law Center works to ensure that all youth who have been involved in the foster care or delinquency systems have support past age 18 that mirrors what other children receive. The support and care provided to young people between ages 18 and 21 must be age-appropriate and reflect that they are legally adults. Support must be individualized and allow young people to make and learn from mistakes, including permitting youth to re-enter care if they realize they cannot yet stand on their own.
While providing extended care should be the standard, states must still zealously pursue permanency for teens and young adults. Having family and supportive adults is one of the key predictors of a successful transition to adulthood. Juvenile Law Center works to increase the chances that all youth in foster care have legal and relationship permanency and that the safety net of extended care and re-entry is available in the event that permanency is not achieved.
To improve outcomes for older youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems who have not achieved permanency, Juvenile Law Center supports policies that ensure that:
Parents give an average of 367 hours of family help per year even when their grown children live away from home.
Diana Divecha, What Gen Y Needs from Parents (and Why You Should Give It to Them), January 22, 2013.
In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home.
A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home, Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends (August 1, 2013).
Parents spend an average of $38,000 on each child aged 18-34, or about $2,200 a year for education, housing, food, or cash.
Robert Schoeni and Karen Ross, Family Support During the Transition To Adulthood, (Network on Transitions to Adulthood, Policy Brief, October 2004).
The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities estimates that “for every youth who ages out of the system, taxpayers and communities pay $300,000 in social costs over that person’s lifetime.”
Id. Social costs include direct costs, like public assistance and incarceration, as well as items like lost wages.
While the total number of children in foster care has decreased over the years, in 2012 alone over 23,000 youth aged out of the system – a more than 30% increase since 1998. In addition, the percentage of exits due to aging out has increased, from 7% in 2000 to 10% in 2012.
Pew Charitable Trusts, Time for Reform: Aging Out and On Their Own (Mar. 2007).
Child Welfare Information Gateway, Foster Care Statistics 2012 (2013).
Children’s Rights, Facts About Aging Out (last visited May 14, 2014). 17,310 youth aged out in 1998.
Time for Reform, supra note 14. Aging Out, supra note 9.
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