CWLA 2004 Children's Legislative Agenda
Education and Training Vouchers for Foster Youth
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- Provide $60 million for Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) for youth leaving foster care at age 18 and those adopted from foster care at age 16 or older.
The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-169) authorized the ETV program. Congress provided federal funding of $42 million for the first time in FY 2003 and increased funding to $45 million for FY 2004. In both years, the President requested $60 million in his budget.
The voucher program is a component of the Chafee Independent Living Program, which helps older youth leaving foster care get the higher education, vocational training, and other education supports they need to move to self-sufficiency. Up to $5,000 per year is available to a young person for the cost of attending college or vocational school.
ETV funds are distributed to the states using the same formula as the Chafee Independent Living Program under the Foster Care Independence Act. If a state does not apply for funds for the ETV program, the funds are reallocated to other states based on their relative need. Although states are doing a good job generally of distributing these funds, more foster youth could take advantage of the vouchers if their availability were more widely known.
When they reach age 18, many of these youth lose the support they received in foster care. Without the support of a family, they are on their own to obtain further education and employment preparation, as well as health care, mental health care, and housing. Foster youth have many strengths and talents, and the desire to succeed, but the bleak reality is that an overwhelming number are ill-prepared for the responsibilities of adulthood. They encounter tremendous obstacles that put their emotional, economic, and personal security at risk. They may, for example, fall victim to violence or become parents before they are ready.
Through the vouchers, youth who leave foster care at age 18, and those who are adopted from foster care at age 16 or older, will have opportunities to realize their dreams and help them become America's next doctors and lawyers, plumbers and electricians, engineers, teachers, and truck drivers. These youth are our future, and the education and training vouchers will help them attend vocational and technical schools, community colleges, and four-year universities.
Seventeen states provide education and training assistance for college or vocational training to youth leaving foster care; $60 million could help approximately 16,000 youth nationwide.
- Approximately 20,000 young people leave foster care each year at their 18 birthday. 1
- Approximately 100,000 youth in foster care are 16 or older. 2
- Children in foster care are twice as likely as the rest of the population to drop out before finishing high school. 3
- Among youth who have recently aged out of foster care, 50% are unemployed. 4 Among these youth, 12% report having lived on the street or in a shelter at least one night since discharge. 5
- One to two years of community college coursework significantly increases the likelihood of economic self-sufficiency. 6
- A college degree is the single greatest factor in determining access to better job opportunities and higher earnings. 7
- Administration for Children and Families. (2001). AFCARS report #5: Preliminary estimates published April 2001. Retrieved online, December 29, 2003, from www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars.htm. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Joiner, L.L. (2001, May). Reaching out to foster kids. American School Board Journal, 188, 30 - 37.
- Courtney, M.; Piliavin, I.; & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (1998). Youth in care transitions to adulthood: Outcomes 12 to 18 months after leaving out-of-home care. Madison: University of Wisconsin - Madison.
- Gruber, D. (1999). Education pays. New York: Workforce Strategy Center.
- Children's Defense Fund. (2000). State of America's children. Washington, DC: Author.
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