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May 2003Vol. 4, No. 4Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Face Uphill Climb to Adulthood

A recent Child Trends research brief, Youth who "Age Out" of Foster Care: Troubled Lives, Troubling Prospects, details the complex issues around children aging out of the foster care system, including:

  • The number of children entering care and aging out.
  • Reasons for the overrepresentation of minorities in care and aging out.
  • The "baggage" children bring with them to care.
  • The difficulties this "baggage" can create for children while in care and when they age out.
  • Promising practices to help children overcome the challenges they face when aging out of the foster care system.

The general premise of the brief is that without the extended support most families provide young adults, youth leaving foster care face enormous challenges in building successful lives. "They are less well prepared educationally, have a harder time embarking on a productive career, are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to be involved in the legal system."

The author outlines some approaches to help children overcome this harsh reality. First, of course, would be to reduce the number of children entering care and increase the number of children adopted from foster care. Second, he outlines the need for additional independent living programs. Finally, the author discusses the need for more structured foster care services.

Some promising practices that were identified include:

  • Life skills instruction.
  • Educational support, including financial assistance with post-secondary education.
  • Employment and career development support.
  • Mentoring and other community outreach activities and services.
  • Supervised independent living.
  • Health services.

The brief can be viewed or downloaded from the Child Trends website at

Related Items

A new website specifically for youth aging out of the foster care system,, has been developed by FosterClub( with support from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. The site seeks to empower foster youth ages 14 to 22 to become involved, informed, and independent.

Read about supports for youth aging out of foster care in "Experts Convene to Promote Permanence for Older Children, Adolescents," "Guides Help Youth in Foster Care Manage Their Money," and "Coordinated Resources for Life Skills Training" in this issue of Children's Bureau Express.

Also see these related articles in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Study Reports Employment Outcomes for Youth Aging out of Foster Care, Creates Baseline" (November 2002)
  • "Independent Living Programs in Oregon and California Give Aging-Out Foster Youth Support" (February/March 2002)
  • "Supporting the Transition to Adulthood of Youth in Foster Care" (May/June 2001)