On June 20, HHS released the latest Foster Care GAO report for Congress, States with Approval to Extend Care Provide Independent Living Options for Youth up to Age 21. Since 2008 when the Fostering Connections Act was enacted, HHS has approved 26 states and six federally recognized tribes to claim title IV-E funding to extend foster care to youth ages 18 to 21. States with approved title IV-E extended foster care for youth ages 18 to 21 includes: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The Fostering Connections Act allow states the option to extend foster care to youth ages 18 to 21 or and states can choose to use all or some of a set of conditions to determine which youth are eligible for their extended care program including , age limit, placement and re-entry into extended care, and payments directly to youth. The GAO report focused on the types of independent living arrangements and services available to older youth by examining the types of supervised independent living arrangements available to youth in extended-care states. They examined what factors extended-care states reported considering when placing youth in supervised independent living, what federal and other sources extended-care states use to fund supervised independent living arrangements for youth and how selected extended-care states prepare youth to live independently.
Some of the report highlights include:
Twenty-three of the 26 states offer different transitional living programs, with five states (California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Tennessee) using single-site or scattered-site models including a group of youth living in a single-family home to youth living in apartments:
• The most common types of settings offered in the 26 extended care states where a shared apartment or home with a friend or roommate or a private apartment or home
• Some states require youth to cover some of their living expenses due to the stipend not being enough to cover their housing and other costs
• Sixteen states require that youth have a high school diploma or GED or be enrolled in college to live in a supervised independent living setting while 17 states required that the youth be employed or enrolled in a job training program
States (including the District of Columbia) that offer extended foster care for youth ages 18 to 21 reported that the majority of the youth in this age group were not eligible for Title IV-E reimbursement with eligibility rates in six of the states at 30 percent or lower and only Virginia and Hawaii had federal funding eligibility rates over 70 percent. This low “penetration rate” (percent of children covered by federal foster care funds) indicates that the AFDC lookback link is having a negative effect.
Illinois and Tennessee re-determine eligibility for their youth when they turn 18. ACF allows states to close and re-open cases for youth in extended care to allow for a new eligibility determination for youth ages 18 to 21.