The Children’s Bureau hosted a webinar on Thursday, October 19th entitled “Proving Extended Foster Care Works for Young Adults”. Presenters Angie Schwartz, the Deputy Director for the California Department of Social Services and Mark E. Courtney, a CalYOUTH researcher, Co-Director of the Transition Age Youth Research and Evaluation Hub, and Professor emeritus at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare discussed the history of extended foster care and the outcomes that they have been able to measure in their extensive research on the program.

Title IV-E agencies in the United States have had the option to provide extended foster care through age 21 since October of 2010, and California was one of the first states to opt into this program. In order to be eligible, young people must be between the ages of 18-21, currently completing high school, enrolled in a general equivalency diploma program, completing secondary education, participating in a program designed to remove barriers to employment, currently employed for at least eighty hours a month, or incapable of meeting those requirements due to a medical condition.

To enroll, youth in care meet with their social worker when they are 17 and ½ years old to decide whether to stay in care or leave. If they choose to leave care, they can re-enroll any time before they turn 21. Youth are ineligible for extended care if they are in the military, incarcerated, or in an unrelated legal guardianship.

The California Youth Transitions to Adulthood study was a collaboration amongst CalYOUTH, the California Department of Social Services, the County Welfare Directors Association of California, and the Judicial Council of California focused on analyzing outcomes for youth in extended foster care. It was based on interviews with young people in the population, surveys of caseworkers, and government program data on employment, earnings, and education of young people in care after age 16. They found that youth who participated in extended care accepted less public food assistance dollars, had decreased odds of experiencing food insecurity, decreased odds of experiencing homelessness, a decreased likelihood of being arrested, and were 25% more likely to feel like they had enough support when compared to foster youths that didn’t participate in extended care.

CWLA recommends that Congress extend foster care to age 21 across the country and endorsed the Access to Foster Care to 21 Act, introduced in the 117th Congress by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA). This study further underscores the way that extended care can help America’s transition age youth succeed and should serve as a call to action for our legislators.

By Rebekah Lawatsch, Policy Intern