How Do States Differ In What Services Are Available For Youth Aging Out Of Foster Care?

Executive Briefing | by | January 29, 2016


Athena Mandros
Athena Mandros

Every year approximately 24,000 youth age out of the foster care system, the majority of whom are 18 years old. These youth are more likely to have poorer outcomes than youth who either exit the foster care system or never enter the foster care system. For example, they are less likely to graduate high school or enroll in college (see Issue Brief One: Education Programs). They are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed (see Issue Brief Three: Employment Programs). And, they have limited financial resources – with median assets of $100 (see Issue Brief Two: Financial Literacy and Asset Building Programs).

The reason for this situation is attributed to a number of factors – but at the core is that these youth have little in the way of formal or informal support systems. They have less access to the physical and emotional resources they need – a place to stay, financial help, access to transportation, or mentors – to transition successfully to adulthood.

To try to change this trajectory for youth aging out of the system, there have been a number of federal initiatives to address the problem, including extended Medicaid benefits, extended Title IV-E payments, and grants from the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program.

Extended Medicaid Benefits – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires all states to extend full Medicaid benefits to foster care youth who aged out of the system until they reach the age of 26. This provision ensures that these youth, who typically have higher rates of behavioral health and physical health issues than other children, can continue to receive health care services (Making Foster Care & Managed Care Work). It is also meant to parallel the health care reform provision that young adults can stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26 (see Medicaid For Youth Aging Out Of Foster Care – The New Rules). While all states must provide Medicaid benefits to youth who age out of the foster care system, some states allow youth who age out of any state foster care system to receive Medicaid benefits, while some states only enroll youth who age out of foster care in that state.

Extended Title IV-E Payments – Title IV-E payments are the stipend that is extended to foster care children who are not residing with a biological parent. The stipends are meant to cover food, shelter, clothes, and other incidentals needed by the child. In the past, these payments ended when the foster care child aged out of the foster care system at 18. With the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act in 2008, states have the option to extend these payments to foster care youth until they turn 21 years old. Currently, there are 22 states that have adopted this extension of benefits.

John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (Chafee Program) – The Chafee Program is a federal grant program that provides non-competitive funding to states to provide independent living services to transition age youth. Services can include training in daily living skills, counseling, permanency enhancement, financial literacy and asset building training, and limited room and board. The Chafee Program also provides a separate non-competitive stream of funding to states to provide education and training vouchers to foster care youth. The vouchers, capped at $5,000 each, are used by youth to pay for secondary schooling or job training programs. Youth can continue to receive the vouchers until age 23 if they are enrolled in the program before they reach the age of 21.

For a list of states that have extended Medicaid benefits to all youth; states that have opted to extend Title IV-E payments to age 21; and to see Chafee Program budgets, check out our new analysis, What Benefits Do States Provide To Foster Care Youth Over Age 18? An OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report. The report answers a number of questions including:

  1. How Many Youth Age Out Of The Foster Care System Each Year?
  2. What Benefits Are Available To Foster Care Youth Over Age 18?
  3. How Do States Provide Medicaid Benefits For Former Foster Care Youth Over Age 18?
  4. How Do States Provide Title IV-E Benefits To Former Foster Care Youth Over Age 18?
  5. How Do States Use “The John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program” To Provide Benefits To Former Foster Care Youth Over Age 18?

The report is free to all OPEN MINDS Circle premium and elite members, and can be purchased in the OPEN MINDS e-Store for $495.

For more on this topic, see Ohio Legislature Considers Extending Foster Care Benefits To Age 21, Youth Villages Program For Youth Aging Out Of Foster Care Improved Participants’ Economic & Mental Well-Being, and 56% Of Canadian Youth Aging Out Of Foster Care Fail To Graduate From High School – and as federal and state budgets and policies change, we will continue to cover it here at OPEN MINDS.


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