This guest post was written by Amanda Talan.
In a recent article in Children and Youth Services Review, Tonia Scott asserts that young people who emancipate from or age out of the foster care system need increased federal and state assistance. Scott assesses four federal policies aimed at lessening the hardships faced by these young adults and offers recommendations for better support and policies.
In her article, "Transitioning youth: Policies and outcomes," Scott provides readers with a clear picture of the turmoil within the child welfare system. She gives thorough descriptions of the issues encountered by young people during their foster care experiences and reviews numerous articles about how they fare when they transition from care.
The review compares outcomes before and after the 1999 passage of the Foster Care Independence Act (FCIA), a federal policy that increased overall funding and housing and health care resources for youth who transition out of care. The review suggests that this policy does not serve as an adequate support system for this population. Scott writes that the articles in review found no improvement in education, employment, finances and housing. The articles also found no decline in criminal involvement, substance use and pregnancy or improvements in physical and mental health status.
Scott notes that although major policies have provided funding and services for youth who transition out of the foster system, the support is not available for all in need. Scott also discusses the correlation between the foster care experience and transition into adulthood, and believes that better social connections and self-sufficiency during care will result in a successful transition.
At the same time, the article fails to take into account how economic and social conditions have changed in the years since the FCIA went into effect, making a comparison between then and now difficult. Scott also mentions concern about whether participants in the studies she reviewed represent the population in question. Despite these limitations, Scott's review provides a context for further discussion of policy efficacy and methods to reach more youth transitioning or transitioned from care.
The article defies myths that regard foster care as a positive foundation for transition into adulthood and federal policies as adequate supports for transitioning and transitioned youth. Scott demonstrates that most youth will experience numerous foster placements and aren't encouraged and/or allowed to have strong social and intimate relations, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and money management skills while in care. These restrictions are devastating to youth who are suddenly expected to have educational, employment and housing security with little or no help from federal or state agencies.
Moreover, federal policies are problematic in a variety of ways. The number of emancipated youth has increased since 1999, but no funding adjustment has accommodated this change. Most significantly, the young adults most in need do not receive federal and state assistances due to eligibility guidelines (lack of education and/or employment.) To change this dire situation, Scott encourages the foster care system to
nourish social connections that youths can maintain during transitions out of care, accessible informational for each young adult and "basic food, shelter and healthcare" for youths who leave foster care without a permanent home.