Youth in foster care, like all young people, need care and support from adults after their eighteenth birthday. Few eighteen-year-olds have the maturity, financial capacity, or life skills to fully take care of themselves. Foster youth deserve the help of supportive adults to prepare for a successful transition to adulthood.

Unfortunately, too many youth remain in foster care, never returning to their families, and few find themselves in safe, loving and permanent homes. They move from foster home to group home and back repeatedly, rarely living in any place long enough to develop supportive networks or make lasting connections with peers or adults. When they age out of the foster care system, they often lack the skills or supports they need to make it on their own.

The consequences of the system's failure to provide proper support and care for youth in foster care can be devastating. Many young adults exiting foster care face substantial difficulty accessing health care, education, housing, and employment.

When the state takes over caring for children, it has a special obligation to ensure that youth in its care have the same opportunity to lead successful, independent lives as all children. Juvenile Law Center works to ensure that the state meets this obligation.

Each year, roughly 20,000 young people age out of foster care in the United States. They often leave the system at 18, on their own and especially vulnerable, without familial or other adult support.

What We Do

Ideally, few young people should ever have to turn to the state for their care; young people’s contact with the child welfare or justice systems should be limited whenever possible. When they do enter these systems, we have a legal responsibility and obligation to help—not hurt—youth or their families.

Juvenile Law Center advocates for policies that prioritize reuniting young people with their families or, when that fails, finding other types of permanent, supportive family-like connections for older youth. We promote individualized and age-appropriate support and services for all youth.

We advocate for educational rights for youth, youth homelessness prevention, promoting permanency, and decreasing institutionalization of youth with disabilities.

Our Work

We've compiled resources for attorneys representing older youth in child welfare matters who are interested in sharing, learning, and brainstorming legal strategies for improving service delivery, policies, and outcomes for older youth.

Youth with disabilities are significantly over-represented in both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system, and planning for the transition from those systems to a successful adulthood presents unique challenges.

Application information, FAQs, and more resources for current and former foster youth seeking Medicaid coverage.

Information, FAQs, and more resources on Pennsylvania's Act 91 and Act 80 on extended foster care in the state.

Extended Foster Care Review

A tool for advocates and policymakers to explore how all 50 states are implementing extended foster care with their laws, policies, and procedures.

Extended Foster Care Tool

A tool for advocates and policymakers to explore how all 50 states are implementing extended foster care with their laws, policies, and procedures.

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How You Can Help

Your support means we can ensure youth in foster care get the support and care they need and deserve.