On Wednesday, May 13, 2020, Members of Congress and Congressional staff were invited to attend a short virtual briefing hosted by Youth Villages, Juvenile Law Center, and FosterClub on how COVID-19 is affecting older youth from foster care.
FosterClub revealed results from their new survey where over 600 transition-age youth from foster care between 18 to 24 years of age reflected on their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic indicating the following “key findings:
• Employment: Nearly 65 percent have lost employment; half did not receive assistance.
• Stimulus Checks: More than half did not receive the stimulus check (52%).
• Food Insecurity: Nearly 1 in 5 young people have run out of food.
• Housing Stability: 23% of young people reported that they are being forced to move or fear being forced to leave their current living situation.
• Guidance from Adults: Just 37% have family members (legal or chosen) to rely on during the crisis. One in 5 youth reported that they are entirely on their own.”
Kerry McKittrick Senior Policy Advisor to Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) discussed the bipartisan legislation, HR 6766, that would temporarily modify Chafee in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing $340 million increase to Chafee funding and $160 million for Education and Training Vouchers. In tandem, Congressperson Karen Bass (D-CA) introduced the Pandemic Protection for Transition-age Foster Youth Act,” that would ensure that Chafee funding would be available to eligible youth who were qualified on January 1, 2020, and 3 months after the pandemic.
Young people are really worried about their housing if they cannot go back to college campuses in the Fall. Former foster youth from Oregon, Phoeniz Ramirez (20-year-old) is currently living on his college campus but is worried that it may not be available in the Summer or the Fall. Former foster youth from Indiana, Rimy Morris discussed, also discussed being at risk of homelessness. She, along with other former foster youth, are residing on campus, and currently, shelter services and food services have been suspended, creating barriers such as transportation to get to the store for essential needs. Rimy also discussed how former foster youth who left their dorm were unaware that they would be ineligible for the state per diem. Phoenix shared that Oregon has weekly Skype calls with youth, and this helps.
Like many Americans, this pandemic has taken a financial toll as well as impact an individual’s mental health. Rimy shared how it has been hard searching for a therapist. For twenty-two-year-old Tee Mosley from Iowa, she shared that she was diagnosed with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety and that telehealth is not helpful. In addition, before the pandemic, she had three jobs, lost two, and was demoted on the third job. In her last semester of college, Tee stated that she had fallen behind on her coursework.
Currently, six states, Alaska, California, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Rhode Island have issued Executive Orders to provide assistance and support youth in and aging out of foster care. Connecticut, Michigan, and South Carolina have taken administrative action to ensure that youth aging out are supported during and following the pandemic. CWLA joined hundreds of national and state groups in urging Congress to increase Chafee funding by $500 million, placing a moratorium on youth aging out, and other legislative actions to meet youth needs during the pandemic. “Foster youth need relief, and we can’t wait,” stated Tee.