The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA) passed at the end of 2020 provided increased support for older foster youth in all 50 states, and each state has utilized the funding in varying ways. Over the past months, Foster Club has hosted conversations with advocates in various states to share about the older youth pandemic relief efforts in their state. CAA funding has been used primarily for extended foster care in Hawaii, a foster youth pandemic direct payment, and educational training vouchers.

In Hawaii, extended foster care, called Imua Kākou (moving forward together), was already in place as a voluntary program for foster youth who turn 18. In response to COVID-19, Hawaii altered its extended foster care requirements to better accommodate youth, for example, allowing a young person to learn skills on YouTube in lieu of attending an in-person class. CAA funding allowed adults who had aged out of Imua Kākou starting in January 2020 to temporarily re-enter the system. This flexibility permitted 63 young adults to re-enter extended foster care.

Hawaii utilized CAA funding to make direct payments of $1,000 to eligible youth aged 18-26. Epic Ohana distributed a survey to determine the eligible population’s specific financial and non-financial needs. This survey found the highest financial needs were housing and transportation and common non-financial needs, including taking a driver’s test, finding a therapist, and writing a resume. Thus far, Hawaii has received 346 applications for the relief payment and has disbursed 244 checks. CAA funding also permitted Hawaii to increase flexibility in their Educational Training Vouchers (ETV) by opening applications earlier and increasing eligibility to those who may not be ETV eligible under normal circumstances.

Hawaii has seen great success in supporting the older youth foster care population in their state by prioritizing the feedback and experiences of youth with lived experience and allowing these youth to shape the direction of relief efforts.

In response to the release of the Pandemic Relief funds for older youth in foster care and the September 30th deadline, Think of Us launched #CheckforUs. This National Campaign is to help states find and connect current and former foster youth to their state’s Chafee distribution team. More than 880,000 young people are eligible for $400M of federal pandemic relief funding. Some youth qualify for thousands of dollars – but their state doesn’t know how to contact them before the September 30th deadline. The TOOLKIT includes customizable emails, text message language, and social media posts for every state!