Why Aren’t Older Foster Youth Extending Stay in Care?

John Kelly, The Chronicle of Social Change •

Another piece of the Fostering Connections legislation was an offer of federal funding to help extend foster care until the age of 21 for youth who wished to remain in care. The idea was to lengthen the runway a bit in recognition of the fact that most people, no matter how supported they are, aren’t ready for independence at age 18.

Since the law passed, 26 states have established federally-funded expansions, and virtually every state has some form of extended care. According to the extended care policy database managed by the Juvenile Law Center, only three states offer no form of extended care: Louisiana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

But based on the findings of this report, it appears that not many foster youth are taking states up on that offer. The report identifies 171,000 youth in foster care between the ages of 18 and 21. But of that total, only 22 percent are age 18 or older. Translation: So far, not many kids are choosing to stick around once they turn 18.