A Map To Self-Sufficiency

California is doing it.What’s that, you ask? They’re providing state funding to allow foster children to remain in the system until they are 21, and they’re offering support to these young adults as they transition from childhood to adulthood. The law passed in 2010, and in some counties, up to 98% of eligible youth are taking part in the program. And it’s working. There are real, measurable benefits of extending care and support.

Read more about one young woman’s story and about the program itself.

Other states are increasing their support through a child’s 21st birthday as well. In 2008, Congress passed a law that awarded matching funds to states that extend foster care beyond the age of 18, which reduces the financial burden of participating states.

The potential benefits of extending care are great. According to an issue brief written by Jim Casey, entitled “Foster Care to 21: Doing it Right“, the outcomes for children allowed to stay in the system until age 21 are far better than those whose support stops at age 18.

With programs like California’s, the benefit to youth who have already faced more hardship and trauma in their first 18 years than most of us will face in a lifetime is immeasurable. If we can help children find their way by providing a road map and support, both emotional and financial, we can keep these children from ending up in situations similar to those they grew up with. And if you ask me, there’s no price too high for stopping that cycle.

So what’s keeping the rest of the states from doing the same? With all of the increased risks children in the foster system face if they age out of the system at 18, I can’t help but wonder why all states aren’t taking advantage of matching federal funds for extending foster care. These young men and women need our help, so I’m hoping that it’s just a matter of time.