On October 12, 2021, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau Aysha Schomburg, issued a letter to the child welfare community urging continued vigilance in assisting young people who exit foster care and to be proactive in reaching out and helping.
The end of federal fiscal year 2021 on September 30, 2021, meant the expiration of whatever remained of $400 million in Chafee funding that was approved in the December 2020 Covid-19 relief package. That and other parts of the relief bill offered added funding and extended supports to prevent young people from aging out of care during the pandemic. In the past few years approximately 18,000 young people exit or “age-out” of foster care in a year due to their reaching the age of 18, 19, 20 or 21 depending on the state policy.
The letter from the Commissioner asks for efforts to engage and serve young people in foster care and formerly in foster care and suggests that people pay particular attention to some ongoing pandemic-related resources that could assist young people including emergency rental assistance, the child tax credit, and the expanded SNAP program.
It is not clear how much of the $400 million in flexible Chaffee funding was not spent down and how many states used their entire allocation of funds. In her letter Schomburg says, “From conversations with officials in states and communities, we know that for many young people in foster care or receiving services under the moratorium on aging out of foster care and other flexibilities of Division X, [of the December 2020 COVID-19 relief legislation] the turning of the calendar to October 1, 2021, did not result in disruptions in their living situations. This is because states have been planning for the expected expiration of Division X flexibilities and have chosen to pursue other available flexibilities, including exercising the Chafee program option to serve youth up to age 23, requesting flexibilities under the Stafford Act, and working with philanthropy and community providers to ensure youth receive seamless services and supports.”
But she cautions that the Bureau has heard about, “concerning situations some young people are finding themselves in– without a concrete plan or information on resources since the ending of the moratorium on aging out of foster care.”
In closing she notes, “I know the child welfare workforce is fatigued and want to give you my heartfelt thanks for all your efforts. I often hear from young people about how important the relationship with their caseworker or other supportive adult was to received services and supports. By taking care of the workforce, we are taking care of young people.”
CWLA has called for extending foster care to 21 in all fifty states.