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May 2004Vol. 5, No. 4Foster Youth Receive Some, Not All, Independent Living Services They Need

A study of young adults aging out of foster care found many youth are not receiving independent living services needed to ease their transition.

The study involved 732 youth in three midwestern States who reached the age of 17 while in out-of-home care and spent at least 1 year in out-of-home care prior to turning 17. These individuals were followed through the age of 21. A recent report, Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Conditions of Youth Preparing to Leave State Care, describes findings from the first of three waves of data collection. Similar to other reports on children in foster care (see previous Children's Bureau Express articles: "Well-being of Children in Foster Care," March 2004; and "Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Face Uphill Climb to Adulthood," May 2003), these data showed foster youth face a variety of challenges, including:

  • Multiple placements
  • Educational difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Mental health and behavioral problems

Despite such difficulties, the majority of these young adults reported being satisfied with their experience in out-of-home care and feeling very close to their current foster family.

Along with these indicators of well-being, the report examined whether young adults are receiving support services developed to aid in the transition to independent living. The first round of interviews found that between one-half and two-thirds of the young adults interviewed had received at least one independent living service in the following categories:

  • Educational support--60 percent
  • Employment/vocational support--68 percent
  • Budget and financial management services--56 percent
  • Housing services--52 percent
  • Health education services--69 percent
  • Youth development services--46 percent

Within each of the above categories, however, the numbers were much lower. For example, within educational support services, the numbers ranged from a high of 29 percent receiving college application assistance to a low of 9 percent receiving GED preparation services. Similarly, employment support services ranged from a high of 46 percent receiving help with completing job applications to a low of 10 percent receiving an internship. Additionally, very few of these young adults reported ever receiving an independent living subsidy (12 percent), while even fewer reported that they were currently receiving a subsidy (6 percent).

These findings indicate that young adults who age out of foster care face a variety of challenges, and although many receive services to address mental health and education problems, relatively few receive specific independent living services. Future reports will focus on functioning after these youth leave out-of-home care. Together, these reports can inform States as they work to meet the purpose of the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999.

The complete report can be obtained from Chapin Hall Center for Children at

Related Items

The following articles in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express also focus on the transition from foster care to independence:

  • "Supporting Successful Transitions for Youth" (November 2003)
  • "Journal Spotlights Transitioning Foster Youth" (May 2002)