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May 2014Vol. 15, No. 5Supporting Youth in Transition

Young adults often are ill-prepared to be fully self-sufficient and continue to rely on parental supports, financially and otherwise, for a number of years. Youth aging out of foster care rarely have such support from their families and are much less likely to successfully support themselves. An article in the Summer 2013 issue of the American Bar Association's e-newsletter, Children's Rights Litigation, highlights the role that lawyers, judges, and other advocates can play in improving outcomes for youth in transition.

The article provides an overview of Federal laws, such as the Chaffee Act and the Fostering Connections Act, that fund programs to support transitioning youth. Key provisions of these laws, such as transition planning that includes a plan for education and job training, extension of or return to foster care, health-care coverage through Medicaid, and the availability of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for youth who have disabilities, also are highlighted. The author provides specific examples of steps advocates can take on behalf of youth to ensure that they are receiving needed supports and benefits, including:

  • Making adult connections: Research shows that having stable, positive relationships with adults in the community directly correlates with the extent to which youth engage in services.
  • Obtaining birth certificates and other documents: Access to birth certificates or other identification is crucial for obtaining employment, training, and other services. Advocates should make sure that these documents are given to youth before they exit care. 
  • Obtaining credit reports and other records: Advocates also should make sure that youth older than age 16 receive copies of their credit reports, as well as assistance in correcting credit errors or addressing credit issues. In addition, upon turning 18, youth must receive copies of their medical and educational records.

"Tackling Foster Care Age-Out Issues," by Kimberly McFarlane, Children's Rights Litigation, is available on the American Bar Association website: