Transitional age youth
Transitional age youth (TAY) are young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) who are in transition from state custody or foster care environments and are at-risk.
Unless a young person enrolls in extended foster care, once youth turn 18 they can no longer receive assistance from the systems of care that previously provided for many of their needs. Like most young people, they are struggling to start out with limited resources and experience. Unlike many, though, they do not have family resources. There is no family to provide them with furniture and dishes for their apartment, to co-sign a loan or guarantee their credit for the landlord, to help pay the security deposit, to guide them through the college admissions process, or put in a good word for a new job.
Programs and changes in programs
Foster care is and was intended to be a temporary situation for children, however many children entering foster care, 25-30% (Kelly) remain there until the age of 18. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005, of the approximately 500,000 (was 550,000 in 2000) children in the foster care system in the United States, an estimated 24,000 foster youth age out of care each year and attempt to live independently. (Gardner)
Homelessness for youth aging out could be lessened using the Chafee Independent Living Program of 1999. According to this program states are allowed to use up to 30% of their independent living funds on room and board for former foster youth who are at least 18 years old but not yet 21. It also requires states to use at least some portion of their funds to provide follow-up services to foster youth after they age out. (Dworsky) The previous program, Title IV-E Independent Living Program of 1990, did not allow the state to use any of its funding for room and board, independent living subsidies, or transitional housing for youth aging out. (Dworsky)
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 contains several provisions aimed at promoting permanent family connections for youth in foster care. (Dworsky) The following are changes made by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 to improve the connection between foster youth and extended family members:
- Notice to Relatives When Children Enter Care. Increases opportunities for relatives to step in when children are removed from their parents and placed in foster care by ensuring they get notice of this removal.
- Kinship Navigator Programs. Guarantees funds for Kinship Navigator programs, through new Family Connection grants, to help connect children living with relatives, both in and out of foster care, with the supports and assistance they need.
- Subsidized Guardianship Payments for Relatives. Helps children in foster care leave care to live permanently with grandparents and other relative guardians when they cannot be returned home or adopted and offers federal support to states to assist with subsidized guardianship payments to families for these children, generally to age 18. In certain circumstances, children may continue to receive guardianship assistance to age 21. Clarifies that all children who, as of September 30, 2008, were receiving federally supported subsidized guardianship payments or services in states with Child Welfare Demonstration Waivers will be able to continue to receive that assistance and services under the new program. Clarifies that children who leave foster care after age 16 for kinship guardianship are eligible for independent living services and makes them eligible for education and training vouchers.
- Licensing Standards for Relatives. Clarifies that states may waive non-safety related licensing standards for relatives on a case-by-case basis and requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress on the use of licensing waivers and recommendations for increasing the percentage of relative foster family homes that are licensed.
- New Family Connection Grants. Increases resources for Kinship Navigator programs, as described above. Also provides grants for Family Group Decision-making Meetings, Intensive Family Finding activities, and Residential Family-Based Substance Abuse Treatment, all of which can help children stay safely with family members and out of foster care or, once in care, return safely to their parents or find permanence with other relatives.
- Keeping Siblings Together. Preserves the sibling bond for children by requiring states to make reasonable efforts to place siblings together when they must be removed from their parents’ home, provided it is in the children's best interests. In the case of siblings not placed together, states must make reasonable efforts to provide for frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction, unless such interaction would be harmful to any of the siblings. (Children's Defense Fund)
This Act helps youth who turn 18 in foster care without permanent families to remain in care, at state option, to age 19, 20, or 21 with continued federal support to increase their opportunities for success as they transition to adulthood. (Children's Defense Fund) This Act also assists foster youth with extra support surrounding their education and healthcare needs as the age out.
24,000 youth age out of foster care every year. The majority of them will be dependent on government assistance at some point whether it is for medical care because of the lack of insurance, food assistance because of the lack of income, housing assistance because of the lack of income, or in some cases their children will be in the foster care system perpetuating the foster care cycle. Society as a whole needs to recognize the consequences of foster youth aging out without the education, experience, knowledge, or skills needed to become a successful adult. Changes to the foster care system can be made, but it will take time, patience, endurance, persistence, and ingenuity from not only the workers in the system and the foster youth, but from a society that recognizes the impact foster youth aging out will make on the future.
Outcomes for transitional age youth in foster systems
Foster care youth are more likely to experience a lack of social support before they enter the system and are more likely to come from low income households with higher rates of physical and verbal abuse (Lindquist & Santavirts, 2014). Their experiences therefore shape their journey throughout the foster care system and into adulthood. When foster youth leave the system, they are more likely to face disadvantages and challenges when compared to their peers in the general population (Gypen et al., 2017).
Foster care youth are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers in the general population (Gypen et al., 2017). Those who are able to attain a high school diploma often find struggles when it comes to higher education. Foster care youth who enroll in college are twice as likely to drop out in their first year compared to their peers in the general population (Gypen et al., 2017). They are also less likely to complete 2-year degrees, and those who do make it to a 4-year university are more likely to drop out after 2 years (Gypen et al., 2017). This can then impact their ability to find employment as they are less likely to find stable employment once they exit the foster care system (Gypen et al., 2017). Although around 80% of former foster youth do find employment within 2 years of leaving the system, most of these jobs are part time and often require little skill or minimal pay (Dworsky, 2005). This then impacts their earnings, as they are more likely to earn less than non-foster care youth, and are more likely to live in poverty due to the low earnings (Gypen et al., 2017). When it comes to housing, the low earnings and lack of support then makes foster care youth more likely to experience unstable housing situations and, in some cases, homelessness. Around 28% of former foster care youth can secure their own place, while around .3% end up homeless, and most of the transitional youth end up in some sort of supported household (i.e. extended relative, foster parent, friend) (Gypen et al., 2017).
Mental health issues, substance abuse and alcohol abuse issues are also challenges that many transitional age youth face once they exit the foster care system. Foster care alumni are more likely to come from a past of neglect and/or physical/verbal abuse. Therefore, they are more likely to suffer from mental health issues such as disruptive disorders, depression, and PTSD (Gypen et al., 2017). Up to 63% of former foster care youth are likely to qualify for some sort of psychiatric disorder at some point in their lifetime (Gypen et al., 2017). In addition, foster care youth, particularly men, are more likely to suffer from substance abuse and mental health issues, and their chances of suffering from these issues increase as they get older (Gypen et al., 2017).
- Children's Defense Fund (16 September 2008), Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act Will Improve Outcome for Children and Youth in Foster Care (PDF), Washington, DC: Author
- Dworsky, A. (2005). The economic self-sufficiency of Wisconsin’s former foster youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 1085-1118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(00)93677-8.
- Dworsky, Amy; Courtney, Mark E. (2009). "Homelessness and the Transition from Foster Care to Adulthood". Child Welfare: 23–56.
- Gardner, Deseree (2008), Youth Aging Out of Foster Care, Identifying strategies and best practices, 2007–2008 Presidential Initiative (Issue Brief), Washington, DC: National Association of Counties
- Gypen, L., Vanderfaeillie, J., Maeyer, S. D., Belenger, L., & Holen, F. V. (2017). Outcomes of children who grew up in foster care: Systematic-review. Children and Youth Services Review, 76, 74-83. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.02.035
- Lindquist, M.J., & Santavirta, T. (2014). Does placing children in foster care increase their adult criminality? Labour Economics, 31, 72-83. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2014.10.001.
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2017). FAQs for Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrists Working with Transitional Age Youth.https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Clinical_Practice_Center/Systems_of_Care/FAQs_for_Child__Adolescent_and_Adult_Psychiatrists_Working_with_Transitional_Age_Youth.aspx.