Academic journal article Child Welfare

Extending Transitional Services to Former Foster Children

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Extending Transitional Services to Former Foster Children

Article excerpt

This article describes what a private agency expended while addressing the transitional needs of former long-term foster youth and examines the association between expenditures and adult outcomes. Not all young adults accepted supports extended to them. In the sample, 41% of the young adults incurred expenses after age 19. Of those using supports, about two-thirds incurred expenses for higher education, and slightly fewer for continued housing support. Median expenses were generally stable or declining between ages 19 and 21, although almost all declined after age 22. Young adults who received extended supports tended to be better off at follow-up, although some troubled young adults used extensive, expensive services.

Casey Family Services (CFS) has provided foster care services to youth with intensive, long-term needs for 25 years in New England (Staff & Fein, 1995). Part of CFS's commitment is to assist youth in the transition from foster care to independent living. CFS offers a range of extended supports and services to youth who leave CFS foster care by departing voluntarily before they reach the age of majority by emancipating in early adulthood, or through adoption.

CFS, the direct services arm of the Annie E. casey Foundation, has been able to explore the role of offering postplacement supports to youth in foster care. Although this flexibility in funding is somewhat uncommon among voluntary child welfare agencies, it provides the opportunity to understand how youth formerly in foster care use extended services and to understand the relationship between service use and young adults' outcomes. Earlier research (see Kerman, Wildfire, & Barth, 2002) provides evidence that these extended services may contribute to better outcomes than are typically experienced by youth formerly in foster care struggling with the aftermath of early maltreatment and the difficult challenges of emancipation from foster care. In this analysis, the authors look at what these post-foster care extended services entail and the costs involved.

The cost of foster care services has received little attention from child welfare researchers, and the cost of post-foster care services, still less. Nationwide, the government spent at least $126 million in 1998 to assist youth who were within two to three years of leaving foster care or residential placement (U.S. Government Accounting Office [GAO], 1999). These funds were primarily from the federal Independent Living Program (ILP; about $70 million), state budgets ($25 million), and additional sources provided by private, charitable, and nonprofit sources (about $31 million).

Roughly 77,000 youth in foster care were eligible for federal ILP services in September 1998 because they were older than 16, according to GAO (1999). Yet only 42,600 youth received ILP services, either because they did not volunteer to do so or because of other barriers to program participation. The total amount of funds available divided by the number of youth who received the service results in an expenditure per recipient per year of about $3,075.

The $131 million spent on ILPs, however, also included administrative salaries and support for creating outreach efforts to those who do not receive services, hiring program coordinators, recruiting mentors, establishing transitional housing arrangements, and providing instructors for the curriculum. Because the $3,075 per youth includes administrative costs, the actual allocation of services and tangible support to youth is considerably less.

ILP has not reported the proportion of costs that go to administration, and no national estimates are available of the cost of the services actually provided for youth receiving ILP programs. The authors surmise from workload and time studies (Karski & Barth, 2000) that at least one-third of available funds go to administration, leaving about $2,000 per youth per year for transitional supports and services. …

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