On Tuesday, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released, Fostering Youth Transitions analyzing that status and outcomes for young people exiting foster care. Fostering Youth Transitions uses data collected across 50 states to assess how young people fare as they transition from foster care to adulthood.

Key points raised by the authors include:

• Among older teens in foster care nationwide, more than half age out of foster care without being reunited or connected to a family
• Leaving foster care without supportive adult connections, access to resources and at only 18 years old puts youth at increased risk for homelessness, poverty, unemployment and other challenges
• All youth who reach age 18 in care would benefit from extended care and support, but only one in four is getting it.
Under the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success Act, states have the option to extend Title IV-E foster care to age 21. Approximately little more than half the states have taken that option although most states will argue that they all have some form of extension. In many instances those programs use the Chaffee Independent Living Title IV-E funds for transition services. Under the 2008 law, a state can extend family foster care to age 21 and under the newly passed 2018 Family First Act states can now extend Chafee Independent Living funds to build onto a post-21 transition period. The Title IV-E extension to 21 also allows states various options of support beyond just family foster care including using it to support college living and some structured independent living arrangements.

he Fostering Youth Transitions highlights the fact that two decades ago, Congress established a system to track national and state-level data and outcomes around youth who have experienced foster care. The quality of the data varies state by state. In part that may be because the data is contingent on people who have exited care and who moved on with their adult lives participating in providing on-going data. This report attempts to fill that gap.

Additional report findings include:

• Half of older teens who left foster care aged out versus being reunited or connected with a family.
• A third have been removed from their home and placed in foster care multiple times.
• Half have experienced three or more foster care placements
The report shows the clear need not only for more and better data gathering but also for better policies and practices, to give young people in foster care the best chances possible.

The reports executive conclusion states:

“Over 171,000 youth in our country who have been removed from their families are now in foster care. Far too many of them are neither reunited with their families nor connected with another permanent family. This occurs even though as a nation we know every kid needs a family.

Policymakers must grapple with the number of young people exiting foster care each year without family, as well the poor access to resources and opportunities they experience that make successful transitions to adulthood less likely. Once areas of needed reform are identified, all involved must hold themselves accountable to working with young people to take action.”