Foster Care and Disconnected Youth: A Way Forward for New York

by Diane Mastin; Sania Metzger; Jane Golden

Apr 1, 2013

On December 1, 2011, the Community Service Society of New York and The Children's Aid Society convened over 200 local and national experts, policymakers, service providers, and advocates to discuss the issues faced by older youth in foster care and strategies to prevent and address their disconnection from anchor social institutions like school, work, and family. This report highlights and further develops the issues raised at the forum, recommends policy directions, and discusses successful program models that address the many challenges facing aging-out youth who become disconnected. Evidence suggests that after aging out of foster care, these young adults have particularly poor chances of becoming successful adults . Between the ages of 16 and 24, many have been homeless more than once . Many have experienced trauma and show signs of depression, behavior problems, and/or emotional difficulties. They are more likely than their peers to get pregnant or become parents. Those who are LGBTQ are often targets of discrimination . All are less likely to reach educational milestones, less likely to be employed, and more likely to rely on public benefit programs. Much can be done to prevent the hardships that aging out of foster care often brings, so that all are "connected by 25"—meaning they have achieved their educational objectives, established connections to employment, and have strong family relationships and stable housing, with the goal that every young person in foster care will develop and reach his or her full potential. These youth can be helped with effective programs that take a comprehensiveapproach, using a strategic combination of services, job training, and employment, along with alternative education options and skills training. Such programs exist, but there are not enough of them, and they lack funding, even though they demonstrate success and represent significant savings over the long-term.

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