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December 2013Vol. 14, No. 9Extending Foster Care to 21 in California

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 allows States to extend title IV-E foster care eligibility for youth to age 21. In 2010, California became one of the first States to take advantage of this provision when its State Fostering Connections law was enacted (AB 12). A new report from Chapin Hall explores the State's planning process and implementation of the law.

Examining the implementation of foster care extension in California is important for two reasons: (1) California has the largest foster care population in the United States, and (2) it has been aggressive in its implementation of the law. In addition to describing AB 12 and the study methods, the report also includes feedback from young people directly affected by the new law. Lessons learned that might inform other States as they look to implement similar extensions also are provided.

Researchers conducted two phases of interviews with various stakeholders. Phase I included interviews with policymakers and leaders of State agencies and organizations, such as the California Department of Social Services, the County Welfare Directors Association, and the Chief Probation Officers of California, among others. Phase II included interviews with 63 stakeholders about their experiences after the law took effect. A majority of the stakeholders interviewed during Phase II also were interviewed during Phase I, including county child welfare directors, county probation directors, and county Independent Living directors, among others. These participants were questioned about the effect of the law's implementation on their daily work—including its effect on their workloads—and its strengths and limitations. Five focus groups were conducted with youth to gain their feedback on the law.

A number of lessons learned are outlined in the report, including the following:

  • A change in cultures—not just policies—at organizations providing services should be considered as States look to serve the needs of young adults and not just minors.
  • States should be as inclusive as possible, inviting a wide array of stakeholders to the planning table, as California's experience indicates that a diverse planning group leads to sounder policies for serving youth. Additionally, extensive planning resources, not just implementation resources, are required for extending foster care.
  • Young people should be engaged early in the process and often.

Providing Foster Care for Young Adults: Early Implementation of California's Fostering Connections Act, by Mark Courtney, Amy Dworsky, and Laura Napolitano, is available on Chapin Hall's website: (563 KB)