Beginning this year, more states may extend the age that youth can remain in foster care from 18 to 21, as a result of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which goes into effect in October 2010. States can now receive reimbursement from the federal government for the care of foster youth up to age 21, rather than 18, as long as youth are enrolled in high school, post-secondary or vocational school, a job training program, or are working at least 80 hours per month (or prevented by a medical condition from doing any of these things).
That’s a good thing, say researchers from the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall research center, because youth who remain in foster care during the critical transition to adulthood are more likely to attain higher education. Youth raised in foster care continue their education beyond high school at much lower rates than non-fostered students. However, former foster youth from Illinois, where young people are allowed to remain in care until age 21, were found to be twice as likely to have ever attended college and more than twice as likely to have completed at least one year of college by age 21, compared with former foster youth from Iowa and Wisconsin. There, as in most states, young people must leave foster care by age 18. Researchers and legislators hope that extending financial and familial support for those few extra years will help more foster youth attain post-secondary education.
Also, that will save states and communities money in the long run, argue the Chapin Hall researchers. If more foster youth attain college educations, they will earn more income, pay more in taxes and require less in public assistance throughout their lifetimes, yielding a savings that researchers estimate will far surpass the investment required to extend care to age 21.
For more information about the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 and the new benefits for foster parents and relative caregivers, visit the Center for Law and Social Policy online.