Illinois' Historical Youth Homelessness Legislation: SB 2983 Creates Youth Homelessness Prevention Subcommittee Under Governor's Office, Reviews Discharge Planning For Youth Exiting Foster Care

upload.png

State Senator Suzy Glowiak is working to stomp out homelessness in Illinois, especially among children and youth.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elmhurst/community/chi-ugc-article-suzy-glowiak-fights-youth-homelessness-in-ill-2019-05-21-story.html

Glowiak passed House Bill 2983, which creates the Youth Homelessness Prevention Subcommittee under the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Youth. The subcommittee will review and make recommendations about the discharge policies and procedures for each agency that handles youth leaving the state's custody or guardianship to ensure youth housing stability.

"That we have homeless children is an indictment of our system of governance," Glowiak said. "We need to find solutions to end homelessness among youth in our communities, and to provide stability and protection to children whose basic needs are not being met."

According to the General Assembly's findings, 1 out of 10 people between the ages of 18-25 are experiencing homelessness for some amount of time over a 12-month period. For those age 13-17, 1 in 30 experience a form of homelessness over a 12-month period.

"The least that any child in Illinois should expect is stable and secure housing. Determining how we provide that, and what broader education and employment opportunities to give our homeless youth, will be the purpose of this subcommittee," Glowiak said.

House Bill 2983 is part of an effort to end youth homelessness by 2020. The Youth Homelessness Prevention Subcommittee will execute the vision set forth by the Cabinet on Children and Youth through efforts to prevent homelessness among youth leaving state systems of care.

"My hope is this subcommittee will create a long-term path to help us reach our goal to eliminate homelessness among our children once and for all," Glowiak said.

House Bill 2983 passed the Senate with unanimous support and now heads to the governor's desk for his signature.

San Francisco Nonprofit's Homeless Youth Coordinated Entry Project: Over 1,300 Youth Without Homes, 6 Neighborhood Hubs Created For Housing, Pregnancy Tests & Mental Health Services

Following the death of her mother two years ago, 21-year-old Tiana Faataui and her brother were left alone in the four-bedroom Bayview District apartment that her family had shared.   https://www.sfexaminer.com/the-city/center-helps-youth-with-health-housing-issues/   But after her brother took his name off of the section 8 lease, Faataui was told she could no longer stay.  “I’m young so I’m still new to this and don’t really understand how any of this paperwork or housing goes,” said Faataui who quit her job to attend cosmetology school.  Faataui is one of more than 1,200 youths aged 12 through 24 who walk through the doors of the 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic at 1728 Bancroft St. each year seeking help. On a recent Wednesday, a sign that read “3rd Street Safe Zone” was hung in one of the center’s windows, and inside colorful posters and art decorated two exam rooms and two therapy rooms.  Since 2005, the 3rd Street Center has provided free medical care to the neighborhood’s at-risk youth from health checkups, pregnancy tests to access to mental health therapy and social workers.  The center has just added housing to its list of ways it assists young people, becoming one of six Coordinated Entry Youth Access Points launching around The City.  Established under the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s (HSH) Coordinated Entry system and operated by community organizations, Youth Access Points help provide critical services and housing. Prior to May 1, one Access Point existed in San Francisco, and it serves adults only.  More than 1,300 youth were counted as homeless in San Francisco in 2017, prompting The City to double its investments in addressing the issue, said Abigail Stewart-Kahn, HSH director of strategic initiatives.  Preliminary data from a 2019 homeless count released on Thursday shows a 10 percent reduction in the number of youth experiencing homelessness, but youth service providers say that hundreds of young people, particularly those living in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty and violence like the Bayview, continue to fall through the cracks.  “Our homelessness looks different over here. Our youth come in [to the center], hair done, with their Jordans on, they’re looking fresh and fly and you wouldn’t know that they are sleeping on their mom’s or friend’s couch,” said Shakeyla O’Cain, a Rapid Rehousing Coordinator at the 3rd Street Center. “They come in, they are in their work uniforms, and you get the impression they can pay rent, when in reality they need more support.”  Lodged inside of established homeless youth service providers, the Access Points are aimed at meeting young people where they are at.  “We deal with turf issues where kids can’t cross different streets and stuff. That adds a different layer to how we can provide services. We can’t be stationary because some kids can’t come over here,” said Joi Jackson-Morgan, Executive Director at the 3rd Street Center.  “I think it’s important to have neighborhood-based services that feed into a larger system. That’s the first step here. Before, [the youth] would have to go to the Tenderloin or elsewhere to get services,” said Jackson-Morgan. “Now that we have these neighborhood Access Points I think we will be able to fill the needs of more youth, with culturally appropriate services, and I think it will make a difference.”  Prior to the roll out of the Coordinated Entry system, which aims to eliminate bias in the social services system by tracing individuals experiencing homelessness and tailoring services to them based on need, clients had to “go to every front door of different agencies and get on waiting lists,” said Stewart-Kahn.  “Their experience was based on how effective their case manager was not on their need,” she said.  Also, because young people had to trek across town to find the right services to meet their needs, many would not seek them out, some service providers said.  “Youth are especially good at hiding their homelessness, and I think we still have work to do to really reach [those who are] hiding in plain sight. The youth try to be invisible — It’s a different kind of work than what you might see in other populations,” said Ilsa Lund, chief of strategy at Larkin Street. “I think the Access Points will do a better job than if the services were located in one singular, centralized place.”  The youth specific Access Points are operated by Larkin Street Youth Services and Huckleberry Youth, and in partnership with the Homeless Youth Alliance and the 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic.  There, the young clients meet with social workers and counselors for an initial “problem solving conversation,” which aims to divert them away from homelessness by using city funds to help address simple barriers, like a late rent payment or unpaid bill that would otherwise result in eviction or serious conflict for the client.  “For youth, problem solving might also mean family reunification. Some are fleeing violence and rejection from their home communities,” said Stewart-Kahn.  Should the youth face problems that can’t be resolved quickly, the next step is an assessment of what resources are available to them based on their vulnerabilities, the length of time they’ve experienced homelessness, and their barriers to finding housing.  Working alongside counselors, most of whom have shared the same cultural and economic experiences as their clients, the youth are then referred to appropriate housing resources, including lists of available permanent supportive housing and The City’s Rapid Rehousing program.  O’Cain called the Access Points a “game changer.”  “It’s wraparound services. You can come here to get a physical, a pregnancy test and also get help with your housing and also find a job or get involved in youth development or youth leadership opportunities,” said O’Cain, a Bayview native who was homeless for eight years. “For a long time young people kept coming to us and would say, “‘I need help with housing.’ Before you can address all of the other health issues, stability is the main issue.”  “Before they can start talking about their traumas, they need a place to stay,” she said.  Still, gaps remain. According to Jackson-Morgan, outpatient psychiatric services for young people are still not readily available, and neither are shelter beds.  “How we deal with young people coming in and just needing to stay at a place for one day?” she said.  And with the need for housing critically outpacing The City’s supply, not every youth who makes contact with a social worker is guaranteed a placement.  While many homeless youth also have access to the adult shelter system, The City currently funds just 62 youth -specific shelter beds, as well as 285 transitional housing exits, 145 supportive housing exists and 108 rapid rehousing exits for youth, according to Stewart-Kahn.  “For every one person we exit from homelesness three more people become homeless in their place.”  For some, the services provided by the 3rd Street Center Access Point have already begun to make a difference.  On Wednesday, O’Cain discussed 20-year-old Nakiyah Kennard’s impending relocation to Oakland through a 3rd Street Center housing subsidy program, where she is eventually hoping to take over a lease on an apartment of her own.  “I don’t mind moving to the East Bay,” said Kennard. “I’m ready to get away from San Francisco.”

Following the death of her mother two years ago, 21-year-old Tiana Faataui and her brother were left alone in the four-bedroom Bayview District apartment that her family had shared.

https://www.sfexaminer.com/the-city/center-helps-youth-with-health-housing-issues/

But after her brother took his name off of the section 8 lease, Faataui was told she could no longer stay.

“I’m young so I’m still new to this and don’t really understand how any of this paperwork or housing goes,” said Faataui who quit her job to attend cosmetology school.

Faataui is one of more than 1,200 youths aged 12 through 24 who walk through the doors of the 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic at 1728 Bancroft St. each year seeking help. On a recent Wednesday, a sign that read “3rd Street Safe Zone” was hung in one of the center’s windows, and inside colorful posters and art decorated two exam rooms and two therapy rooms.

Since 2005, the 3rd Street Center has provided free medical care to the neighborhood’s at-risk youth from health checkups, pregnancy tests to access to mental health therapy and social workers.

The center has just added housing to its list of ways it assists young people, becoming one of six Coordinated Entry Youth Access Points launching around The City.

Established under the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s (HSH) Coordinated Entry system and operated by community organizations, Youth Access Points help provide critical services and housing. Prior to May 1, one Access Point existed in San Francisco, and it serves adults only.

More than 1,300 youth were counted as homeless in San Francisco in 2017, prompting The City to double its investments in addressing the issue, said Abigail Stewart-Kahn, HSH director of strategic initiatives.

Preliminary data from a 2019 homeless count released on Thursday shows a 10 percent reduction in the number of youth experiencing homelessness, but youth service providers say that hundreds of young people, particularly those living in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty and violence like the Bayview, continue to fall through the cracks.

“Our homelessness looks different over here. Our youth come in [to the center], hair done, with their Jordans on, they’re looking fresh and fly and you wouldn’t know that they are sleeping on their mom’s or friend’s couch,” said Shakeyla O’Cain, a Rapid Rehousing Coordinator at the 3rd Street Center. “They come in, they are in their work uniforms, and you get the impression they can pay rent, when in reality they need more support.”

Lodged inside of established homeless youth service providers, the Access Points are aimed at meeting young people where they are at.

“We deal with turf issues where kids can’t cross different streets and stuff. That adds a different layer to how we can provide services. We can’t be stationary because some kids can’t come over here,” said Joi Jackson-Morgan, Executive Director at the 3rd Street Center.

“I think it’s important to have neighborhood-based services that feed into a larger system. That’s the first step here. Before, [the youth] would have to go to the Tenderloin or elsewhere to get services,” said Jackson-Morgan. “Now that we have these neighborhood Access Points I think we will be able to fill the needs of more youth, with culturally appropriate services, and I think it will make a difference.”

Prior to the roll out of the Coordinated Entry system, which aims to eliminate bias in the social services system by tracing individuals experiencing homelessness and tailoring services to them based on need, clients had to “go to every front door of different agencies and get on waiting lists,” said Stewart-Kahn.

“Their experience was based on how effective their case manager was not on their need,” she said.

Also, because young people had to trek across town to find the right services to meet their needs, many would not seek them out, some service providers said.

“Youth are especially good at hiding their homelessness, and I think we still have work to do to really reach [those who are] hiding in plain sight. The youth try to be invisible — It’s a different kind of work than what you might see in other populations,” said Ilsa Lund, chief of strategy at Larkin Street. “I think the Access Points will do a better job than if the services were located in one singular, centralized place.”

The youth specific Access Points are operated by Larkin Street Youth Services and Huckleberry Youth, and in partnership with the Homeless Youth Alliance and the 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic.

There, the young clients meet with social workers and counselors for an initial “problem solving conversation,” which aims to divert them away from homelessness by using city funds to help address simple barriers, like a late rent payment or unpaid bill that would otherwise result in eviction or serious conflict for the client.

“For youth, problem solving might also mean family reunification. Some are fleeing violence and rejection from their home communities,” said Stewart-Kahn.

Should the youth face problems that can’t be resolved quickly, the next step is an assessment of what resources are available to them based on their vulnerabilities, the length of time they’ve experienced homelessness, and their barriers to finding housing.

Working alongside counselors, most of whom have shared the same cultural and economic experiences as their clients, the youth are then referred to appropriate housing resources, including lists of available permanent supportive housing and The City’s Rapid Rehousing program.

O’Cain called the Access Points a “game changer.”

“It’s wraparound services. You can come here to get a physical, a pregnancy test and also get help with your housing and also find a job or get involved in youth development or youth leadership opportunities,” said O’Cain, a Bayview native who was homeless for eight years. “For a long time young people kept coming to us and would say, “‘I need help with housing.’ Before you can address all of the other health issues, stability is the main issue.”

“Before they can start talking about their traumas, they need a place to stay,” she said.

Still, gaps remain. According to Jackson-Morgan, outpatient psychiatric services for young people are still not readily available, and neither are shelter beds.

“How we deal with young people coming in and just needing to stay at a place for one day?” she said.

And with the need for housing critically outpacing The City’s supply, not every youth who makes contact with a social worker is guaranteed a placement.

While many homeless youth also have access to the adult shelter system, The City currently funds just 62 youth -specific shelter beds, as well as 285 transitional housing exits, 145 supportive housing exists and 108 rapid rehousing exits for youth, according to Stewart-Kahn.

“For every one person we exit from homelesness three more people become homeless in their place.”

For some, the services provided by the 3rd Street Center Access Point have already begun to make a difference.

On Wednesday, O’Cain discussed 20-year-old Nakiyah Kennard’s impending relocation to Oakland through a 3rd Street Center housing subsidy program, where she is eventually hoping to take over a lease on an apartment of her own.

“I don’t mind moving to the East Bay,” said Kennard. “I’m ready to get away from San Francisco.”

Michigan's Student Homelessness Data Report: Over 26,000 Homeless Students, Ranks 6th Highest In The Nation, 94% Of 540 School Districts Report Homelessness Issue, Smaller Districts Not Immune

upload.png

Otsego County has about 108 youth who are homeless, according to the online Child Homelessness in Michigan Map created by the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions.

https://www.petoskeynews.com/gaylord/featured-ght/top-gallery/gaylord-women-create-project-to-connect-homeless-youth-with-community/article_1cc1e85c-6635-541f-8c71-e84d296ed590.html

The Poverty Solutions map shows homeless youth statistics for each school district in the state.

“These children not only lack a stable place to call home, they are more likely to transfer schools, have long commutes, struggle with poor health, and be chronically absent than their non-homeless peer,” reads part of the website. “All of these daily challenges place homeless students at a greater risk for not meeting grade-level standards and for dropping out of school.”

Poverty Solutions said recent research shows homelessness for children is “a key factor predicting student achievement in both rural and urban areas, yet little attention has been given, thus far, to understanding where homeless students in Michigan attend school and how their needs might differ depending on their geographic location.”

According to the key findings, “Michigan has one of the largest populations of homeless students in the United States. In school year 2015-16, Michigan ranked 6th among states for the most homeless students. By comparison, Michigan ranked 10th for overall student enrollment.”

Stefanski has taken in homeless youth over the years while also raising her own family with her husband. She says she has eight children: “I gave birth to four and then four came to live with us.”

But homelessness is not always obvious. She said sometimes it takes the form of couch-surfing or living in a vehicle.

“It’s amazing when you start having them come live at your house, you find out that, yeah, there are (youth without homes here),” Stefanski said. “A conversation I had with the last young boy told me ‘you wouldn’t believe how many of my friends just don’t have a home to go to. They just sleep wherever they can go.’”

For the last three years, Stefanski has worked toward creating a program to help youth who are homeless through outreach and collaboration between community resources.

“There are so many different reasons why someone can become homeless and then they go down a bad path because they just don’t know what to do or who to reach out to,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing we want to change. We want to have an outreach program that gets to these kids and lets them know that we can help them out and get them to the point where they can get the help that they need.”

The Karing Home Youth Project, co-founded by Stefanski and Denise Pallarito, was officially created last year to increase awareness about the needs and benefits available to teens and young adults in need of housing in Northern Michigan.

The organization is hosting a Community Night from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, May 20, at Jay’s Sporting Goods’ Headwaters Room, 1151 S. Otsego Ave.

Stefanski said one goal is to eventually bring a shelter for youth.

“This is something I want to be sustainable, not just something that happens once and then falls apart and then we can’t help the kids. I want it to be stable,” she said. “So, we’re taking our time, even though I would like to have something up tomorrow because there are kids that need it.”

Necessary skills

Stefanski’s first experience with homeless youth was when a teen boy she knew from church came to live with her.

Nathan Petrusha, now 32, came to the Stefanski family after his father died. Petrusha had been living in his pickup truck as a teen Gaylord High School student, Stefanski said.

In a lengthy letter to Stefanski, titled “why I love you,” Petrusha details how he became homeless and later met the Stefanski family.

“I was a senior in high school and without a strong father figure and a very absent mother figure I was fairly free range,” he remembered in the letter. “My little brother didn’t really have a choice he had to go live with Mother. He never really got over that because neither of us wanted to live with mother.”

Petrusha met the Stefanski family and later joined the their household where he saw it as a true home.

“I showed up to a 3 bedroom house with 6 people in it already. Kari Jo was waiting for me. She had hot food, a clean towel and the best blanket,” reads part of the letter. “I am not sure how many days or nights or weeks I spent there before I knew I was home — but less than 5 minutes sounds right.”

After bonding with the family, he started to learn basic skills.

“I remember Kari Jo offered to do my laundry but I declined. A short while later I was encouraged by Mike, (Stefanski’s husband) that maybe I should let Kari Jo do some of my laundry,” reads part of the letter. “So later that day I learned how to run a washer and dryer. Also how to fold clothes without getting yelled at. That sounds simple, but it was a major milestone for a guy who had been living out of a pickup truck.”

Stefanski said the Karing Project aims to help with more than just the bare necessities for youth who are homeless.

She said it aims to collaborate with different community groups and individuals that each have something to contribute toward connecting youth with people who can provide items, funding — or even teach them skills like budgeting, or connect them with resources for things like paying for driver’s education classes.

Stefanski’s hope is that a variety of local organizations and individuals can come together at the May 20 meeting to pool resources and ways to help youth who are homeless with immediate and eventual resources.

She said another aspect is addressing the needs of young adults.

“We’re all going to have an open discussion on the areas that kids need help. Kids will need immediate help like emergency help: somewhere to get food, somewhere to take a shower or somewhere to get those necessities taken care of,” Stefanski explained. “I want to have an open discussion on families that are willing to take in 18- to 24-year-olds that need that crisis care help.”

Stefanski said the project then aims to also help with “all the other things that come into play after that,” such as helping the young adults to finish their education, work on employment, get them to health care providers for mental and physical health.

National Youth Exiting Foster Care Data Report: 51% Age Out Of Foster Care, Only 22% Of Foster Youth Are Between 18-21 Yrs Old, Extended Foster Care Is Not Working, Young People Desire Independence

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, once a standalone entity and now part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has released a compendium of data on foster youth ages 14 to 21, a group that makes up about 25 percent of the overall foster youth population.   https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/youth-services-insider/report-teens-aging-out-foster-care-permanency-extended-care   “Fostering Youth Transitions” is the first resource that really makes it simple for advocates and policymakers to zero in on outcomes for this subset of the foster care population, and then compare state-level performance to a national trendline. That is an invaluable tool if you’re interested in making the case for greater investments in older youth.  Included in the report are data from the following federal sources:  Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)  National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD)  American Community Survey  Youth Services Insider sifted through the report to see what jumps out from 218 pages of mostly bad news.  Living, and Leaving, Without Permanency  Among all youth in foster care, the share that exits the system without permanency – reunification, adoption, kinship arrangement – is pretty small. But this report finds that among older teens, it is the most likely outcome of foster care: 51 percent of this group emancipates from care.  The share is much, much higher in some states, including the most populous. In Maryland, 73 percent of older youth age out. It’s 65 percent in California, 63 percent in Texas and 60 percent in Florida. In all cases, those percentages are even worse for African-American youth.  Instability starts well before adulthood for many of these older foster youth. Nearly a third have had more than one episode of foster care, and 51 percent have experienced three or more placements during their time in the custody of the state.  That is all extremely not good. We are 10 years out from the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which provided federal support for subsidized kinship guardianship agreements. Part of the motivation for those was to support permanency in the homes of relatives who might be hesitant to adopt. Surely, one expected outcome from this would be more of the older youth finding a permanent place to call home.  One reason for hope on this would be the dramatic, foundation-bankrolled expansion of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program that helps train and fund adoption workers who specialize in permanency for older youth. The Dave Thomas Foundation of America, which operates the program, has a goal of increasing foster care adoptions by 70 percent.  In the meantime, it should immediately become a priority of the Congressional caucuses on foster care to explore why so many older youth are exiting without any form of permanency. It is also worth mentioning that data in the most recent AFCARS report suggests that permanency is becoming more difficult in general for all foster youth.  Extended Foster Care: Thanks, But No Thanks  Another piece of the Fostering Connections legislation was an offer of federal funding to help extend foster care until the age of 21 for youth who wished to remain in care. The idea was to lengthen the runway a bit in recognition of the fact that most people, no matter how supported they are, aren’t ready for independence at age 18.  Since the law passed, 26 states have established federally funded expansions, and virtually every state has some form of extended care. According to the extended care policy database managed by Juvenile Law Center, only three states offer no form of extended care: Louisiana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island. But based on the findings of this report, it appears that not many foster youth are taking states up on that offer. The report identifies 171,000 youth in foster care between the ages of 14 and 21. But of that total, only 22 percent are age 18 or older. Translation: So far, not many kids are choosing to stick around once they turn 18.  “That’s a big point of concern for us,” said Leslie Gross, director of Jim Casey, in an interview with YSI. “Since 2011, we have been on a big campaign” to get youth into extended care.  A weird wrinkle here: It isn’t clear how great the federal data on older youth is when it comes to extended care. Rules on data collection under AFCARS have not been updated for decades, so there’s no official instruction to states on counting the youth who remain past 18. In the topline AFCARS report released to the public each fall, the number of youth in care who are 18 and older has gone down.  Gross said there are a number of states capturing older youth in AFCARS, and she’s confident the data in the report captures most of the extended care population.  “We all know there are quality issues in all of this data,” she said.  On a basic level, it shouldn’t really surprise anyone if teens are wary of staying in foster care after 18. Foster care is hardly an optimal experience for many of the youth in it, especially the ones living in group homes – which are largely youth in this older demographic.  So given the choice between freedom and more foster care, should we really be shocked most just move on? If practitioners and policymakers really believe in extended care as a way to prevent some of the worst outcomes from aging out, the lesson here might be that a better sales pitch on staying in the fold is necessary.  But Gross said that in some states and counties, it’s the actual extended care plan that needs fine-tuning.  “Despite lots of states extending care, I think there are concerns about whether they are doing it in a way that’s developmentally appropriate,” said Gross.  Surprisingly Stable Housing, or Nah?  If someone asked Youth Services Insider to guess what percentage of emancipating youth reported a stable housing situation, we’d have guessed it was somewhere between 33 and 50 percent.  Actual retail price: Seventy percent nationally report stable housing in surveys with the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD). What the what?  Gross said uptake issues aside, extended care probably has helped with this metric in recent years. But it was among the most surprising findings, she said, and it does not jive with Jim Casey’s own research on the subject.  The initiative operates in 17 jurisdictions around the country, and periodically surveys thousands of youth who are aging out of foster care.  “We don’t see that same number in terms of stable housing,” Gross said.  The high rate of reported stable housing is even stranger when you factor in what NYTD surveys show about transitional services provided to youth aging out, primarily through the federal-state partnership known as the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. Here are the national trendlines on three key categories, each expressed as the percent of youth who report receiving them:  Employment/vocational training: 23 percent.  Educational financial assistance: 23 percent  Financial assistance with room and board: 19 percent  So despite indicating that most older foster youth do not report getting the type of help we associate with securing a stable housing environment in adulthood, the NYTD surveys show that 70 percent of those youth are ending up with stable housing anyway. Gross thinks the inconsistency could be indicative of problematic data.  “This is an issue we see with information from NYTD,” Gross said. “The response rates are still a real problem. Does this tell the whole picture?  “But we have come to a point where … we’re going into the 25thanniversary of Chafee [it passed in 1999],” said Gross. Data problems aside, “it’s critical to know how and how much young people are experiencing these programs.”

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, once a standalone entity and now part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has released a compendium of data on foster youth ages 14 to 21, a group that makes up about 25 percent of the overall foster youth population.

https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/youth-services-insider/report-teens-aging-out-foster-care-permanency-extended-care

“Fostering Youth Transitions” is the first resource that really makes it simple for advocates and policymakers to zero in on outcomes for this subset of the foster care population, and then compare state-level performance to a national trendline. That is an invaluable tool if you’re interested in making the case for greater investments in older youth.

Included in the report are data from the following federal sources:

Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)

National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD)

American Community Survey

Youth Services Insider sifted through the report to see what jumps out from 218 pages of mostly bad news.

Living, and Leaving, Without Permanency

Among all youth in foster care, the share that exits the system without permanency – reunification, adoption, kinship arrangement – is pretty small. But this report finds that among older teens, it is the most likely outcome of foster care: 51 percent of this group emancipates from care.

The share is much, much higher in some states, including the most populous. In Maryland, 73 percent of older youth age out. It’s 65 percent in California, 63 percent in Texas and 60 percent in Florida. In all cases, those percentages are even worse for African-American youth.

Instability starts well before adulthood for many of these older foster youth. Nearly a third have had more than one episode of foster care, and 51 percent have experienced three or more placements during their time in the custody of the state.

That is all extremely not good. We are 10 years out from the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which provided federal support for subsidized kinship guardianship agreements. Part of the motivation for those was to support permanency in the homes of relatives who might be hesitant to adopt. Surely, one expected outcome from this would be more of the older youth finding a permanent place to call home.

One reason for hope on this would be the dramatic, foundation-bankrolled expansion of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program that helps train and fund adoption workers who specialize in permanency for older youth. The Dave Thomas Foundation of America, which operates the program, has a goal of increasing foster care adoptions by 70 percent.

In the meantime, it should immediately become a priority of the Congressional caucuses on foster care to explore why so many older youth are exiting without any form of permanency. It is also worth mentioning that data in the most recent AFCARS report suggests that permanency is becoming more difficult in general for all foster youth.

Extended Foster Care: Thanks, But No Thanks

Another piece of the Fostering Connections legislation was an offer of federal funding to help extend foster care until the age of 21 for youth who wished to remain in care. The idea was to lengthen the runway a bit in recognition of the fact that most people, no matter how supported they are, aren’t ready for independence at age 18.

Since the law passed, 26 states have established federally funded expansions, and virtually every state has some form of extended care. According to the extended care policy database managed by Juvenile Law Center, only three states offer no form of extended care: Louisiana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island. But based on the findings of this report, it appears that not many foster youth are taking states up on that offer. The report identifies 171,000 youth in foster care between the ages of 14 and 21. But of that total, only 22 percent are age 18 or older. Translation: So far, not many kids are choosing to stick around once they turn 18.

“That’s a big point of concern for us,” said Leslie Gross, director of Jim Casey, in an interview with YSI. “Since 2011, we have been on a big campaign” to get youth into extended care.

A weird wrinkle here: It isn’t clear how great the federal data on older youth is when it comes to extended care. Rules on data collection under AFCARS have not been updated for decades, so there’s no official instruction to states on counting the youth who remain past 18. In the topline AFCARS report released to the public each fall, the number of youth in care who are 18 and older has gone down.

Gross said there are a number of states capturing older youth in AFCARS, and she’s confident the data in the report captures most of the extended care population.

“We all know there are quality issues in all of this data,” she said.

On a basic level, it shouldn’t really surprise anyone if teens are wary of staying in foster care after 18. Foster care is hardly an optimal experience for many of the youth in it, especially the ones living in group homes – which are largely youth in this older demographic.

So given the choice between freedom and more foster care, should we really be shocked most just move on? If practitioners and policymakers really believe in extended care as a way to prevent some of the worst outcomes from aging out, the lesson here might be that a better sales pitch on staying in the fold is necessary.

But Gross said that in some states and counties, it’s the actual extended care plan that needs fine-tuning.

“Despite lots of states extending care, I think there are concerns about whether they are doing it in a way that’s developmentally appropriate,” said Gross.

Surprisingly Stable Housing, or Nah?

If someone asked Youth Services Insider to guess what percentage of emancipating youth reported a stable housing situation, we’d have guessed it was somewhere between 33 and 50 percent.

Actual retail price: Seventy percent nationally report stable housing in surveys with the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD). What the what?

Gross said uptake issues aside, extended care probably has helped with this metric in recent years. But it was among the most surprising findings, she said, and it does not jive with Jim Casey’s own research on the subject.

The initiative operates in 17 jurisdictions around the country, and periodically surveys thousands of youth who are aging out of foster care.

“We don’t see that same number in terms of stable housing,” Gross said.

The high rate of reported stable housing is even stranger when you factor in what NYTD surveys show about transitional services provided to youth aging out, primarily through the federal-state partnership known as the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. Here are the national trendlines on three key categories, each expressed as the percent of youth who report receiving them:

Employment/vocational training: 23 percent.

Educational financial assistance: 23 percent

Financial assistance with room and board: 19 percent

So despite indicating that most older foster youth do not report getting the type of help we associate with securing a stable housing environment in adulthood, the NYTD surveys show that 70 percent of those youth are ending up with stable housing anyway. Gross thinks the inconsistency could be indicative of problematic data.

“This is an issue we see with information from NYTD,” Gross said. “The response rates are still a real problem. Does this tell the whole picture?

“But we have come to a point where … we’re going into the 25thanniversary of Chafee [it passed in 1999],” said Gross. Data problems aside, “it’s critical to know how and how much young people are experiencing these programs.”