The Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, on Thursday, December 1, held the first of what is expected to be a series of Hill roundtable discussions on the challenges of youth in foster care. The first roundtable was “A Focus on Older Youth and Young Adults in Foster Care.”

This forum began with opening comments by Mark Courtney, University of Chicago School of Social Services Administration, and former Executive Director of Chapin Hall.  Courtney provided an important overview based on his research, data analysis and interviews over the years.  He highlighted that while approximately 23,000 youth age out or exit foster care to adulthood in a given year, there are over 65,000 children in the foster care system who are 16 and older.  He reported that, based on recent conversations with HHS officials, 26 states have either extended or have submitted state plans to extend foster care to age 21.  Due to these extensions of foster care, there are approximately 14,000 young adults in the foster care system (out of 427,000 total).  The option to extend care from 18 up to 21 was part of the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success Act.

Another significant point Dr. Courtney highlighted was that half of youth that age out of foster came entered foster care at age 12 or later and they did not grow up in foster care as many believe. In discussing the role of adults in the lives of these young people and the belief that many foster youth lack an adult mentor or presence; three quarters of the young people he has surveyed and or researched do have at least one adult they are close to and a review of national data indicates that one-third of youth who had left care had a special education classification, one-third were “old for grade” and one-half had never worked for pay.

Discussing other observations, Dr. Courtney verified oft-repeated statistics, that yes by their late twenties, approximately three to four percent of young people who had been in foster care had completed a four-year college degree. Also of note, during the discussion part of the roundtable, he said that approximately one in ten youth who age out of care had been adopted at some point in their life.

After the overview, there was a roundtable discussion with the group that included close to a dozen congressional staff as well as several young people who had been in foster care.  Some of the discussion focused on what works or doesn’t work.  The models or programs that worked involved intensive case work models, coaching and peer mentoring.

Questions and the discussion revolved around the experiences of the young people and questions of what helped them and what could help other young people who do not make it through college or have less positive outcomes.  There was a discussion about the possibility of bringing more young people to Washington who represent some of the young people who do not make it all the way to college and discussing some of the challenges for some of these young people.