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February 2004Vol. 5, No. 1White House Task Force Report Targets Foster Youth

The Final Report of the White House Task Force on Disadvantaged Youth, released in October 2003, proposes a comprehensive Federal response to the needs of millions of disadvantaged youth, with a particular focus on children in foster care. The Final Report presents a national youth policy to support all young people in growing up to be healthy, safe, and ready to participate in educational, professional, family, and civic life.

Four goals were identified for Federal investment:

Better management of programs. The Task Force recommends the creation of a Disadvantaged Youth Initiative to oversee policy and coordinate Federal efforts. Other recommendations for improving program management include:

  • Moving some programs into more appropriate agencies
  • Facilitating interagency collaboration for special populations
  • Improving the Federal grants system

Better accountability of programs. The Task Force recommends that better accountability be achieved by increasing efforts to understand "what works" and holding programs accountable for results.

Better connections. To foster better connections with parents, the Task Force recommends increasing parent involvement in Federal youth programs and advisory groups. Better connections with older (college-aged) youth also would be promoted through a Youth Service Initiative that would allow these older youth to participate in voluntary service with children in high poverty areas.

Priority for neediest youth. The Task Force singled out youth in foster care and migrant youth as high priority groups for targeting discretionary resources and as subjects of Federal interagency working groups that would address their most pressing needs.

In the case of foster youth, the Task Force also recommended creating a program to improve the quality of education for school-aged youth. The Education of Foster Youth Demonstration Program would include the following components:

  • Establishment of programs at Federal, State, and local levels.
  • Appointment of a contact at the Department of Education to represent the educational needs of foster youth.
  • State and local demonstration projects focusing on the educational needs of foster youth.
  • Development of training opportunities and partnerships at the State and local levels.
  • Creation of a system for tracking and maintaining the educational records of youth in foster care.

Finally, the Task Force recommended that the newly created Interagency Working Group on Mentoring address the needs of foster youth. The Task Force suggested mentors could be assigned to foster youth both when school-aged children enter the child welfare system and when youth age out of care and transition to adulthood.

The Task Force was created by President Bush in December 2002 and charged with developing a comprehensive Federal response to the problem of youth failure, with a focus on enhanced agency accountability and effectiveness. Representatives from a number of agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services, made up the Task Force, which was chaired by the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.

The Task Force's Executive Summary and the full text of the Final Report can be accessed at

Related Items

For more on the needs of foster youth, see "Casey Foster Alumni Achieve Success in High School Graduation, Employment," "Funds for Transition from Foster Care to Independence," and "Foster Youth Help Develop Curriculum and Provide Training for Child Welfare Workers" in this issue.