On Thursday, July 21, 2022, the Child Welfare League of America, alongside Youth Villages, hosted an open mic to discuss the Access to Foster Care to 21 Act, sponsored by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA). Kristen Torres, from Representative Chu’s Office, joined the call to provide a basic overview.

This bill, which was introduced last month, would extend nationally the age of which a youth is eligible to remain in foster care to 21 and provide financial assistance to states by de-linking youth ages 18-21 from the antiquated Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) requirements, ensuring states receive federal IV-E reimbursement. Additionally, it would also ensure youth who voluntarily leave care at 18 have the right to re-enter care should they need to.

This bill is crucial as approximately 20,000 young people age out of care each year, often without a supportive adult presence in their life. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act in 2008 gave states the option to extend foster care to 21, yet as of 2022, only 28 states have implemented this extension. If H.R. 8177- Access to Foster Care to 21 Act is passed, it would allow these young adults to have agency over their care decisions, instead of leaving it up to the State to decide and feel comfortable exploring their freedom without permanently giving up supportive services.

Shaquita Ogletree, Director of Federal Policy for Youth Villages, and John Sciamanna, former Vice President of Public Policy for CWLA, answered questions about the history and implementation of the legislation, and attendees offered insights from their personal and professional experience, highlighting programs that assist transition age youth.

Representative Chu’s office is actively looking for cosponsors and support to move the bill forward before the end of the year.

CWLA and Youth Villages are circulating a sign-on letter to demonstrate support for this important bill. National, state, and local organizations are encouraged to sign the letter; deadline is Friday, July 29th, 2022.

By Taylor Savage, Policy Intern