Less than half of the older youth population exited to permanency in 2021
HARRISBURG, PA—Family relationships that endure throughout an individual’s lifetime have been out of reach for too many of Pennsylvania’s young people who have experienced foster care, according to Fostering Youth Transitions 2023: State and National Data to Drive Foster Care Advocacy, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Data from all 50 states shed light on the housing, economic, education and permanence challenges faced by nearly 400,000 young adults who have experienced foster care. The report provides foster care trends and insights from 15 years of state and federal data for policymakers and child welfare leaders responsible for ensuring young people’s success.
In Pennsylvania, too many are struggling with transitioning to adulthood due to unique circumstances with being a foster child, as only 47% of older youth are exiting the system to permanency. Black children and Hispanic/Latino children have disproportionate rates of non-permanence than White children: only 39% of Black children and 43% of Hispanic/Latino children find permanency, while 56% of White children do.
“The goal of the child welfare system is to provide a child with permanency by returning them home or establishing a new family for the child or youth,” said Rachael Miller, Policy Director at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “This obligation lasts until the child exits the system. However, we’re seeing too many older youth age out on their own without connections to people and resources to be successful—putting them at high risk for poor outcomes.”
Fostering Youth Transitions 2023 reports that although the number of teenagers and young adults in foster care has decreased by 45% nationally over the past 15 years, systems are falling short at delivering services to those who are in care.
While group care is declining as family-based placements are being prioritized—57% of older youth in foster care in 2021 were in a family-based setting—only 30% were placed with kin, or someone they know, trust and have a pre-existing relationship with.
“Research shows that compared with children in non-relative care, youth placed with kin experience better outcomes, including permanency through reunification, adoption or guardianship, and placement stability,” Miller said.
In Pennsylvania, independent living services—such as vocational training, tuition aid and housing vouchers have been available for eligible older youth, but only 51% received them.
Without access to federally funded services and the support of permanent families, many young people are exiting the system lacking the education and training needed to secure stable employment. The report finds that among young adults with foster care experience who were 21 years old in 2021:
- 23% did not have stable housing
- 49% did not have part-time or full-time employment, and
- only 25% had post-secondary enrollment.
Fostering Youth Transitions 2023 seeks to close service gaps by providing policymakers and child welfare system leaders with information to create solutions that better support young people. More specifically, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children urges policymakers to:
- Better identify and address gaps in support services for young people in foster care that can be addressed by improved investment and policy and practice changes.
- Ensure that young people who experience foster care have the relationships, resources and opportunities they need to thrive, including what they need to obtain housing and employment and the skills to sustain success in adulthood.
- Better equip and staff child welfare agencies to prioritize and promote permanence and proven strategies that support well-being and positive outcomes for teenagers and young adults who experience foster care.
- Address the rise in foster care cases attributed to child behavioral problems and neglect by examining the role of underlying issues of poverty and focusing on strengthening families and communities to reduce the need for child removals.
- Improve child welfare agencies’ capacity and ability to collect, report and strategically use foster care data.
Miller’s organization convenes focus groups with older youth to gain insight into their lived experiences in the foster care system. Older youth say they need more and better access to transition services that assist them with typical day-to-day activities that they will be required to perform while living independently. These include how to open a bank account, apply for job training and employment, apply for technical training or post-secondary education and navigate public transportation.
“Permanency means family or the establishment of nurturing long-lasting family relationships. Family is central to a healthy child and adolescent development, and young people greatly rely on the moral and financial support of family as they transition into adulthood,” said Miller. “We can do more to help youth set and meet their goals and provide a safety net when they face challenges.”
Fostering Youth Transitions 2023: State and National Data to Drive Foster Care Advocacy is available at www.aecf.org.
ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA PARTNERSHIPS FOR CHILDREN
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is a strong, effective and trusted voice to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in the commonwealth. Since 1992 its public policy victories have helped countless children learn, thrive and succeed, regardless of circumstances. PPC is statewide, independent, non-partisan and non-profit. Learn more at www.papartnerships.org.
ABOUT THE ANNIE E. CASEY FOUNDATION
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children, youth and young adults by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.