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March 2005Vol. 6, No. 2Impact of the Foster Care Independence Act on Foster Youth

The Foster Care Independence Act (FCIA) of 1999 resulted in more funds and services being available to youth aging out of foster care. This was one conclusion of a recently released U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) report that set out to examine the impact of the FCIA on States' funding allocations, services to foster youth, coordination of service delivery, and accountability.

The FCIA doubled the Federal funds available to States for independent living programs for youth leaving foster care. The GAO report concluded that this increase in funding allowed States to expand independent living services, and many States were also able to expand services to older and younger youth. Almost all States were able to increase their levels of service coordination, and States submitted multiyear plans and annual reports to comply with FCIA accountability requirements.

The GAO report also noted some problems that States encountered with the FCIA funding and subsequent independent living services. For instance, some States still reported gaps in critical services for youth (e.g., housing, mental health services), difficulties in engaging youth and foster parents, and barriers in linking their independent living services to other youth-serving programs. In addition, the GAO reports that States' accountability information lacked standardization, making it difficult to assess the effectiveness of the independent living services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is developing a new information system that is expected to improve program accountability.

The full GAO report, HHS Actions Could Improve Coordination of Services and Monitoring of States' Independent Living Programs, can be found online at (PDF 1.71 MB).