When the CR was passed last Thursday, it did not extend pandemic relief funding for youth exiting foster care including additional $400 million in Chafee-pandemic relief funding (annual mandatory Chaffee funds are set at $143 million). The addition $400 million expired at the end of fiscal year 2021. It is not clear how much of the $400 million was not spent by the states or how many young people were assisted.
Legislation, H.R. 5167, sponsored by Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would both extend the remaining $400 million from 2021 and add in an additional $400 million for FY 2022. The legislation also includes some other protections including extending foster care beyond age 18.
Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN), instrumental in getting the original pandemic relief issued a statement that said in part:
“Foster youth continue to face substantial hardships due to the pandemic-related economic and health crises. As tens of thousands of youths experience the expiration of temporary protections from exiting care, Rep. Walorski and I remain committed to working together to help provide the stability and certainty needed. It is the earnest advocacy of current and former foster youth that helped enact the original emergency pandemic protections and the Chafee program flexibilities that improved the circumstances of thousands of young people…we are working bipartisanly on a path forward to resume key provisions from the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act…”
Since 2019 CWLA has included in its legislative agenda the need to extend foster care to age 21 in all fifty states. Before the start of the 2020 pandemic 26 states had used the option to extend care beyond age 18. It is not clear how many states have now permanently extended care to 21 since the pandemic began. The Children’s Bureau offered some flexibility to states last year in adjusting their state plans to do this.
A pre-pandemic report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that in the 26 states that did extend foster care, 38 percent of young people are in a family foster care arrangement, 34 percent are in a variation of independent living arrangements, and the remaining 28 percent are in a range of institutional settings, including college dorms, group homes, maternity homes, Job Corps and other employment training settings, and voluntary substance abuse treatment facilities.