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March 2009Vol. 10, No. 2Cost Benefits of Providing Foster Care Services to Young Adults

A study of the costs and benefits of extending foster care services to young adults ages 18 to 23 indicates that such programs can provide a measurable financial benefit to society. The study focuses on a cost-benefit analysis of the Transition Guardian Plan (TGP), which incorporates successful practices from a variety of programs to help former foster youth transition into adulthood.

Under the TGP, youth would be provided with a monthly stipend and support for postsecondary or vocational education and medical, housing, and transportation expenses. As youth made successful transitions to independence and self-sufficiency, cost benefits to the State would be in the areas of increased income from taxes and reduced use of prisons and Temporary Aid to Needy Families.

The study uses data from the State of California to illustrate potential savings over 40 years. The methodology shows that a full success rate would result in a benefit-cost ratio of 1.5 to 1; a 75 percent success rate would equal 1.2 to 1.

Society generally recognizes the human costs of emancipating foster youth with few supports or services; demonstrating the financial benefits of providing such services is especially useful in a time of tightened government budgets. This methodology can also be used to assess the costs and benefits of similar programs.

"A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Transitional Service for Emancipating Foster Youth," by Thomas Packard, Melanie Delgado, Robert Fellmeth, and Karen McCready, was published in Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 30(11) and is available for purchase on the Elsevier website:

The journal article is based on Expanding Transitional Services for Emancipating Foster Youth: An Investment in California's Tomorrow on the Children's Advocacy Institute website: (1.35 MB)

Related Item

Read more about helping transitioning foster care youth on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website: