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May 2024Vol. 25, No. 4Report Uses Strategic Foresight to Explore the Future Conditions of Young Adults Exiting Foster Care

On the Threshold of Change: Forces That Could Transform Future Conditions for Youth in Extended Foster Care (EFC), a report by the Institute for the Future, the Youth Law Center, and the California Youth Connection, uses strategic foresight to present a forward-thinking vision for transforming extended foster care (EFC) in the United States. The report's executive summary describes this strategic foresight as "a set of tools, processes, and research methodologies designed to bring discipline, creativity, and imagination to how we reinvent and plan for the long-term future."

The report outlines the historical context of EFC, starting from Congress's authorization in 2008 for states to extend foster care to age 21. While this shift was intended to provide a safety net for youth in foster care, data from the past decade reveal persistent challenges, including homelessness, incarceration, and health issues among EFC participants.

The report identifies challenging realities facing youth in foster care today, such as family inequity, racial injustice, economic inequality, climate crises, the digital divide, and social volatility. It calls for systemic changes to address these challenges and presents four transformational future forces that could reshape EFC by 2035: equitable transition, restorative care, relational design, and computational advantage. These forces envision a system that provides universal access to stable housing, financial security, holistic health care, nurturing family ties, and digital literacy.

Key insights emphasize the importance of prioritizing loving relationships, financial security, and holistic well-being for youth in EFC. The report advocates shifting the focus from avoiding adverse outcomes to promoting comprehensive well-being and life fulfillment. It emphasizes the need to co-create the future of EFC with young people and leverage partnerships across sectors to build a supportive network anchored in communities.

Ultimately, the report calls for collective action to shape a future where youth in EFC have the resources, support, and opportunities to thrive, emphasizing the importance of centering youth voices and fostering inclusive collaboration.

In addition to the full report and executive summary, there is a short companion film and an hour-long recorded virtual conversation.