Twenty Years after the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (“Chafee”): What We Know Now About Meeting the Needs of Teens and Young Adults

The Child Welfare League of America is pleased to announce a call for abstracts for a special issue of Child Welfarea peer-reviewed academic journal that has been published for more than 95 years.

This special issue is dedicated to honoring the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (“Chafee”), the first federal child welfare legislation to focus on teens and young adults who exit foster care. This landmark legislation has given rise to many innovative services and supports for teens and young adults who are affected. However, Chafee was premised on the presumption that for many teens and young adults, staying in foster care until they reached the age when they were no longer eligible to receive services was the only likely outcome. Chafee was passed at a time when little was understood about adolescent brain development and few interventions existed that focused on the special developmental needs of teens and young adults in foster care.

Since the passage of Chafee, the percentage of youth exiting care has remained virtually unchanged. Teens and young adults account for about 25% of the general population, but make up more than 34% of individuals in foster care. This represents an issue of disproportionality. Moreover, continued poor permanency outcomes similarly represent an issue of disparity. The lack of real permanency, both legal and relational, is associated with the multiple risks that young people face as they transition from foster care. Additionally, the current understanding of racial disproportionality and disparity is challenging the field to grapple with other seemingly immutable issues. CWLA hopes that this special issue of Child Welfare journal may similarly challenge the field to reexamine presumptions about the developmental needs of teens and young adults and improve their opportunities as they enter adulthood.

Ample research has documented the experiences and circumstances of youth who exit the child welfare system. Exiting care is frequently a problematic period for youth, as many depart the child welfare system ill-prepared for life on their own, devoid of family and other environmental supports to assist them. In this special issue, our goal is to feature research and programmatic advances in services and supports for teens and young adults who are being served in the child welfare system, highlighting research that addresses child welfare programs’ efforts in promoting improved well-being of teens and young adults in care and successful progression into adulthood.

Manuscripts using various methods (e.g., case studies, quantitative analyses, policy analyses) are welcomed. Guest editors are Cassandra Simmel, PhD, Rutgers University, and Victoria Kelly, PsyD, MSW, CWLA Board of Directors. Of particular interest are manuscripts that examine the following:

  • The needs, experiences, and outcomes for teens and young adults who are involved with the child welfare system, including an examination of the diversity of trajectories that they experience.
  • Specific risk factors or conditions for sub-groups of teens and young adults that may affect their exits from the child welfare system, including how these policies incorporate a developmental lens specific to teens and young adults.
  • Analysis of state and/or federal policies and their impact on teens’ and young adults’ exits from child welfare involvement.
  • Cross-cultural considerations in the delivery or receipt of services for teens and young adults involved with the child welfare system and/or in their trajectories in the system.
  • Innovative programs, services, or initiatives targeted to improve effective support for the developmental needs of teens and young adults in foster care and successful exits from child welfare involvement.
  • Innovative programs, services, or initiatives targeted to improve permanency outcomes for teens (i.e., staying home, going home, and finding homes).
  • The efficacy of using “big data” and/or predictive analytic techniques when examining the circumstances and trajectories of teens and young adults in child welfare and what the ethical issues are with these techniques.
  • Understanding and promotion of teens’ and young adults’ right to self-determination and sense of agency in shaping their young adult lives.
  • How teens and young adults involved with multiple youth-serving systems (e.g., child welfare and juvenile justice systems) are prepared for adulthood.

Submissions are welcomed from scholars and practitioners and will be selected to ensure an array of perspectives based on factors such as relevant policy, advocacy, topic, and method. Preference will be given to those manuscripts with the most rigorous methods and analysis presented.

Prospective authors should submit abstracts of up to 750 words to managing editor Rachel Adams, at, by August 1, 2019. Please use person-first language (i.e., “teen in foster care” instead of “foster teen”) in your abstract. Abstracts should clearly identify the topic, methods (including data sources for empirical papers), expected or preliminary findings, and practice and policy implications. Each abstract should have a cover page that includes the name of the corresponding author, institutional affiliation, and email address, as well as the name(s) of any additional author(s) and their institutional affiliation(s).

Invitations to submit a full article will be extended to authors of accepted abstracts by August 9, 2019. Initial drafts of the selected papers are due by October 18, 2019, and final papers are expected by November 1, 2019. The special issue is slated for publication in December 2019.