Child Trends released a report, sponsored by Youth Villages, on “Funding Supports and Services for Young People Transitioning from Foster Care” to address existing funding supports and services that do not adequately cover the types of intensive supports and skill development that many young people transitioning from foster care need. Nineteen child welfare leaders across eight jurisdictions including Alameda County, California, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Tennessee were interviewed to highlight funding successes and challenges that young people transitioning from foster care face and the report identify policy issues for the child welfare field. Sources of funding include the Title IV-E Foster Care Program and the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood (Chafee), and other funding sources.

HHS estimated that about 20,000 young people emancipate or “age out” without legal permanency from foster care in FY 2017. Many face adversities during the transitioning to adulthood including the risk of homelessness, unemployment, and poor educational attainment. This targeted population of youth needs continued support past age 18, and increased federal funding is needed to serve young people ages 18 to 21 transitioning from foster care.

Federal funding sources provide the underlying structure for services to young people ages 18 to 21 transitioning from foster care, and jurisdictions also invest significant state and local resources to make the required match to draw down federal funds and fund services and supports beyond what federal dollars can finance. The largest federal funding source is Title IV-E Foster Care that supports youth under the age of 18, room and board, and other costs reimbursed to the state. States can choose to extend foster care to age 21 and receive Title IV-E reimbursement. Administrative costs are reimbursed at a 50 percent rate, and caseworkers visit youth in foster care at least once a month. Chafee funding allows states to provide a wide variety of child welfare services including educational, employment, financial, and housing supports for older youth, ages 14 and older, and transition services for young people up to age 21. The passage of the Family First Act allows states with extended foster care to age 21 to extend Chafee funding to age 23. Chafee funding is a mandatory $140 million per year with an additional $42.5 million for Education and Training Vouchers (ETV). ETV funds post-secondary education or vocational training up to the age of 23 and the age of 26 for states with extended foster care.

Other sources of federal funding not specific to child welfare include the ACA, Medicaid, Family Unification Program (FUP), Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and TRIO programs that support the needs of older youth. The ACA extended Medicaid eligibility to young adults to age 26, and the FUP program provides housing choice vouchers for youth transitioning from foster care. States and counties are leveraging federal, state, and local funding streams that are limited and complex to provide additional services for young people.
The challenges and opportunities identified for these young people require providing intensive supports and skill development, ensuring that young people are connected to supportive adults, avoiding service “cliffs,” and coordinating funding streams and services.

The report identifies policy issues for the child welfare field to consider as they seek to improve services and supports for young people transitioning from care. These include addressing how to leverage the use of existing funding and increasing funding for older youth transitioning from foster care. Improving the outcomes of youth transitioning from the foster care system must include continued support past age 18 and collaboration with other systems to explore how funding can better address the services and supports for this targeted population.