Social Policy Foster Care Act 1999

Foster Care Independence Act of 1999

Table of Contents
Title Page
Table of Contents 1
Introduction 2
History 4
Political Forces 8
Values 8
Programs Implemented 8
Funding 11
Intended or Unintended Results 14
Suggestions for Improvements 14
Bibliography 17

Neeley Keith
Dr. Howard
Social Policy
April 25, 2000
Foster Care Independence Act of 1999
Before this bill was signed into law the Federal
Government provided about $70 million per year to conduct
programs for adolescents leaving foster care that are
designed to help them establish independent living.
Research and numerous reports from States conducting these
programs indicate that adolescents leaving foster care do
not fare well. As compared with other adolescents and young
adults their age, they are more likely to quit school, to be
unemployed, to be on welfare, to have mental health
problems, to be parents outside marriage, to be arrested, to
be homeless, and to be the victims of violence and other
crimes (Cook, 1991).
The need for special help for youths ages 18 to 21 who
have left foster care must be recognized to understand why
the passage of this bill was so important. In the majority
of states, emancipation of a foster youth is not determined
by readiness, but happens by statute at 18 or upon
attainment of a high school diploma or GED. Research
demonstrates that young people who emancipate from the
foster care system experience great risk in terms of
emotional, economic, and physical safety. Like all youth in
their age bracket, they are more likely to be unemployed or
underemployed, with the additional burden of less
educational achievement and opportunity. Young people
report that the transition to independence and expected
self-sufficiency is often very rapid, sometimes unplanned
for and unexpected , and results in their feeling “dumped”
(Mech, 1994).
To strengthen the system of support that contributes to
the safety of young people emancipating from the foster care
system we must: Increase early and consistent access to
independent living preparation, especially opportunities for
realistic practice of employment and life skills; ensure the
active involvement of young people in the individual
planning and decision making process that will lead to
successful emancipation; increase access to emergency
shelter, transitional housing, and longer-term affordable
housing options; ensure that no youth is discharged to
homelessness and provide support and concrete assistance,
including health care, basic necessities, and formal
aftercare services through age 21 (Nixon, 1998). These
things listed above are addressed in bill H.R. 3443.
Young people need appropriate information about the
strengths and limitations of all permanency options,
including adoption, legal guardianship, and other permanent
living arrangement, as well as emancipation. Though many
foster teens are adopted each year, emancipation to
independence is the reality for many others. Long lasting,
supportive, and strong connections to family members,
friends, and other adults are critical to young people’s
healthy development while they are in foster care and to
their success in adult life. Young people report that
relationships with people who care about them and are there
for them consistently make all the difference in the world
when they are on their own (Mech, 1994). These are some of
the problems faced by 20,000 foster children who age-out of
care each year.
In the early 1980’s, older adolescents in foster care
and young adults who had been discharged from foster care
become a source of great concern to professionals in human
services and to society at large. Many young people
released from foster care were returning to the care of the
state as adults, either through the welfare or criminal
justice systems, or as residents in shelters for the
homeless(Stone, 1987). At the same time, studies such as
the one conducted by Westat in 1986 showed that about half
of the children in foster care nationally were age 12 or
older, and that many of these teenagers would exit foster
care as adults who must live on their own (Westat, 1988;
Stone, 1987). Public agencies recognized the need to make
fundamental changes in their programs and services for these
older children, particularly in the areas of education,
employment, life-skills, and decision-making.
These concerns culminated in the passage of legislation
creating a federal Independent Living Program in 1986. In
1987, funds were allocated and program implementation began
in all 50 states. In some states, federal funds
supplemented state funds that were already being directed to
the provision of independent living services to older teens
in foster care. Maryland, for example, had recognized the
need for independent living services for teens and begun
implementing a state funded program in 1985.
The Independent Living Program amended in 1990 to
extend eligibility for independent living services to age 21
at state option. This extension recognizes that young
people in foster care often face difficulty in making abrupt
transition out of care at age 18, and that services