Understanding the Relationship between Extended Foster Care and Transitions to Adulthood from Care

Does extending benefits and care beyond age 18 help youth in foster care achieve better economic and educational outcomes as they transition to adulthood?

The passage of the Fostering Connections Act, in 2008, allowed states to provide continuing supports to youth in the foster care system until the age of 21. California is one of several states that have taken up this call. The proposed study investigates the consequences of California’s federally approved plan, which took effect in 2012. The goal is to examine whether extended care benefits youth and determine the mechanisms driving the benefits. The transition to adulthood is a critical stage in the life course for all young people, and especially so for young people growing up at the social and economic margins. Typically, youth formerly in foster care are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and attend college, and have a much higher rate of involvement with the criminal justice system, compared to the general population. Because black, Latino, and low-income youth are disproportionately represented in foster care, policies to extend care may reduce inequality on the basis of race and income. The study will build upon the ongoing California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH), survey data of 727 foster youth aged 17 in 2013, and a sample of 235 child welfare workers whose caseload included at least one youth reaching age 18 while in care.

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