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February 2023Vol. 24, No. 1Report Documents the Ways Child Welfare Is Failing Youth Who Age Out of Care

Think of Us published a second edition of its report on how the child welfare system is failing youth transition out of foster care. The report is based on research conducted between fall 2019 and spring 2020 in five participating sites: Santa Clara County in California, First Place for Youth in Solano and San Francisco Counties in California, The New York Foundling in New York City, Hennepin County in Minnesota, and Uplift Family Services in San José, California. At these sites, researchers engaged a total of 206 youth in care, youth who were formerly in care, child welfare staff, supportive adults, foster papers, and other participants.


Findings from the study demonstrate that youth who age out of the foster care system are largely left unhealed, unprepared, and unsupported. The report is organized into the following three chapters:


  • Healing and Dealing With Trauma: This chapter explores the impact of trauma on the lives of foster youth, including the ways in which the foster care system should respond to trauma to promote healing.
  • Preparing for Adulthood: This chapter discusses the system’s current attempts to prepare youth for adulthood and ways in which those attempts can improve.
  • Building a Supportive Network: Based on the experiences of study participants, this chapter demonstrates that youth in care often do not have supportive adults in their lives and that the system needs to help them build these social networks.


These three major issues addressed in the report are illustrated through the stories of five fictional characters/archetypes who exemplify the experiences of the 81 youth who participated in the study.


The first edition of the report was published in December 2020. The second edition was prompted by the needs of transition-age youth being intensified by the pandemic and a growing urgency to address those needs.


More information is available in the report,  Aged Out: How We’re Failing Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care.