Chapin Hall Releases New Report on Extended Foster Care

The California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTHS) is underway to evaluate the impact of California’s approach to extended foster care.  California was among the first states to take up the option of extending foster care until 21, passing the California Fostering Connections to Success Act in 2010.  California’s approach to extended foster care has been heralded as one of the most innovative and comprehensive among all states, as the California law seeks not only to extend foster care by 3 additional years, but to transform the system itself in order to better meet the needs of young adults.

The CalYOUTHS study began in 2013 with 727 youth, who were an average of 17 years old at the time the study began, with the intent of following each youth as they reached age 18 and had to decide whether to participate in extended foster care and continuing throughout the period of time that they would be eligible to benefit from the program.  These youth have now reached 19 years old and the CalYOUTHS researchers released the latest report summarizing the outcomes and the impact extended foster care is having on their lives.

One of the most notable findings was the number of youth that took advantage of extended foster care — over three quarters of the youth who were eligible decided to participate in the program. Further, many of the young people that initially decided to exit care at age 18 ended up reentering foster care.

Extended foster care is also allowing youth to pursue their education and employment goals.  Over 80% of the youth reported that the law is aiding them in these endeavors, and over 70% of the youth were either attending school or had gainful employment at the time they were surveyed.  Some of the services that the youth identified as being particularly helpful included the monthly financial support, independent living services, case management and, the support of a social worker.  The success of extended foster care is also seen in the fact that over 60% of the survey participants described themselves as being “very optimistic” about their future and the direction they are heading.

This is not to say that extended foster care is a perfect program or that further refinements to the law are not needed. For example there was a significant portion of the respondents who felt that their preparedness for independent living and managing their finances was lacking.  Youth also reported needing more assistance finding appropriate housing.  Finally, some respondents felt that they were not involved enough in developing their independent living plan and were not made aware of the available benefits and supports. The Alliance for Children’s Rights is committed to continuing to work to improve extended foster care and ensure that all youth are benefiting from the opportunities provided by the law. If you would to read the entire study, please follow this link.