For more than 14,000 California foster youth between the ages of 16 and 20—nearly a quarter of all those in care in 2015—the transition to adulthood is especially challenging. At age 21, if they had not been reunified with their families or adopted, youth "age out" of the state’s foster care system, and services often end abruptly. Without effective transition planning, these young adults are at increased risk for negative outcomes including unstable housing, low educational and career attainment, early parenthood, substance abuse, physical and mental health problems, and involvement with the criminal justice system.
Policies that could enable youth aging out of the foster care system to thrive as adults include ensuring effective implementation of the Federal Affordable Care Act, which extends Medicaid coverage to foster youth until age 26, and the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, which extends foster care services to age 21. In addition, strengthened educational and workforce supports, including support to pursue secondary education, can improve outcomes for youth transitioning out of care.
National Foster Care Month is a time to acknowledge the foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. It is also a time to focus on ways to create a bright future for the more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care in the US.