Transition Age Foster Youth

CAI is working to improve outcomes for youth aging out of foster care by increasing the quality and quantity of programs and services available to that vulnerable population. Each year, 20,000 of the nation’s foster children “age out” of the foster care system and are expected to become independent, self-sufficient and contributing members of society with little or no assistance from others. These are young adults who experienced significant psychological trauma during their formative years — including being neglected and/or abused; being separated from their homes, friends, families and most things familiar to them; and enduring multiple placement in homes and institutions, interrupting (among other things) their educational progress. Particularly those foster youth who live their teen years in group homes do not benefit from normal growing-up experiences that most of us took for granted, but which prepared us for adult life, such as seeing an adult pay bills each month, do the laundry, buy groceries, pay taxes, arrange for car insurance, or undertake the dozens of other mundane tasks required to be a responsible, self-sufficient adult.

The foster care system itself creates huge barriers to the normalcy of a child’s growing-up experience, causing foster youth to miss out on many rites of passage experienced by their peers. Many foster youth lack control over even minor aspects of their lives, giving them little opportunity to make decisions about their lives. Unlike their peers who were not raised by the foster care system, most foster youth alumni do not have a strong familial support system to offer guidance and to which they can go for help if they experience the difficulties that typically face young adults. We essentially abandon our foster youth in the wilderness when they age out, with no resources, no map or compass, and no one to serve as guide.

The consequences of our failure to adequately prepare foster youth for life on their own are woven throughout every aspect of their lives after foster care. They are evident in the bleak outcomes and challenges these youth face in the areas of educational attainment, employment, housing, homelessness, physical and mental health issues, credit issues, and identity theft.

Major law and policy changes are needed at the federal and state levels in order to give these youth -- our youth -- a meaningful opportunity to become financially independent and self-sufficient after leaving foster care. CAI's efforts in this area include impact litigation, legislative and regulatory advocacy, research and publication of special reports, and more.

CAI's work in this area includes the following: