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Running head: AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE

Aging out of Foster Care


Lindsay Britcher
DY5085
SW4710
Wayne State University

AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE

Aging out of foster care has become a challenge for many young adults in todays
society. It is estimated that between 25,000 and 30,000 young adults age out of the system each
year (Goodkind,Schelbe, Shook. 2010). These youth are typically between the ages of 18 and 19
years of age although the Adoptions Act of 2008 was created to provide federal funding for these
youth until they are 21 years of age (P.L. 110-351), many of these young adults do not want to
accept the expanded care that is available to them because since this act was recently passed
these young adults do not understand how they can use this to their advantage. Many also see
this act as something that can hold them back, or keep them in the system longer. When many of
these young adults are questioned as to why they want to leave the system and not accept the
extra assistance that was being offered to them, they responded by saying they dislike the system
and want to be independent or the system failed them in some way and they no longer want to
deal with the foster system (Goodkind, Schelbe, Shook. 2010). Many of these young adults feel
that they need to leave the system in order to become an adult. They seem to feel as if they were
to stay in the system until they are 21, they would not be considered adults at the age of 18.
According to the study by Goodkind, Schelbe, Shook (2010) who interviewed 45 youth
in the age range of 18 to 23 years old, with the average being 19 years old 46% of this sample
left the child welfare system right about their 18th birthdays and 13% left between their 17th and
18th birthdays showing that approximately 60% of this sample had left around their 18th birthday.
Only 20% of this sample was still involved with the child welfare system at the age of 19. 7% of
this sample was homeless when this interview was conducted, 4% in a foster home, and the rest
were living with some sort of family member. This study also found that 35% (more than one
third) of these young adults who aged out of the foster system have children or were expecting a
child during the time of this study and 4% have already had their child removed from their

AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE

custody by the child welfare system. This study also found that many of the young adults that
aged out of the system and did not continue until they were 21 was mainly because of confusion.
Many of these teens caseworkers would make them feel forced out, according to Goodkind,
Schelbe, Shook (2010). These teens would be told that if they wanted to take care of their child
better they would need to get a job and drop out of school, but if they dropped out of school the
young adult would no longer be able to stay in the system. Another way was if the young adult
ended up living in a shelter of any sort, then they are automatically dropped from the child
welfare system.
One of the major issues young adults have in the foster system is issues with substance
abuse. According to Stott (2011) in the 2006 Monitoring the Future data adolescents age 15-18;
25-32% reported using marijuana in the last year, whereas 36% of the same age group in the
foster system reported marijuana use in the last year. Stott (2011) also states that more than one
third of a Missouri sample of youth leaving the child welfare system met the diagnostic criteria
for having had a diagnosable substance abuse disorder at some time in their life. One of the
issues with the foster children doing drugs is when they age out of the system they tend to fall
back on the drugs as a support measure. These teens also tend to fall into the drug scene and
become dealers or addicts. In another study Stott (2011) found that 24% of Washington youth
who left the foster system between the ages of 18 and 19 in 2003, used illicit drugs in the past 3
months and 9% said they used drugs on a weekly basis. Many young adults who are in transition
from the foster system are at risk of developing a substance abuse issue, especially if they have
little education, mental health issues, or have had a run in with drugs while in the foster system.
In a study by Yates and Grey ( 2012) 16% of their sample was found to be maladapted. These are
the group of teens that then to have issues with substance abuse as well as the youth that tend to

AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE

end up in the criminal justice system. These maladapted teens were found to have both external
and internal difficulties and poor relationship skills.
Another major issue young adults aging out of the child welfare system are engaging in
risky sexual behaviors. Young adults, especially females leaving the system are twice as likely to
engage in risky sexual behaviors then their cohorts (Stott. 2011). This risky behavior tends to
result in pregnancy. In a study on Midwest foster care, almost 33% of all females in care had
been pregnant. Some factors associated with risky sexual behavior include a history of child
sexual abuse, substance use, weak family attachments, low social capital, poor interpersonal
well-being including low self-esteem, a decreased internalized locus of control, a diminished
sense of opportunity, and being an ethnic or racial minority.(Stott, T. 2011) Another factor found
in higher pregnancy rates among teens in the foster system is if a teen had been previously
sexually assaulted, they are more likely to have a child before the age of 19. Many of these
young adults are moved from foster home to foster home resulting in loss of self-confidence and
stability. These teens tend to partake in risky sexual behavior for a sense of normalcy. It was also
found that only a quarter of the teens partaking in sexual behaviors used condoms every time
they had intercourse and about 30% used birth control (Stott,T. 2011).
Even though aging out of foster care can be a difficult experience, the government is
trying to help these young adults by allowing them to have a better change to attend college. As
stated by Okpych (2012) different states have different laws and Michigan is one of the most
helping states for foster children. If you reside in Michigan and have aged out of foster care you
have access to Medicaid coverage, case management services remain in effect, court review of
your case every six months, and a detailed transition plan is drafted at least 90 days before you
age out. Youth in Michigan are also eligible to receive independent living services though FCIA

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funding, a Tuition Incentive Program, and tuition assistance program at over 70 participating 2
and 4 year colleges. There are also several colleges in Michigan that offer campus support and
scholarship programs to youth who aged out of foster care (Okpych. 2012). Wayne State
University is one of the schools that assist students who have aged out of the foster care system.
The program Wayne State University offers is called Transition to Independence(TIP). The
requirements for this program are you must be a youth who is in foster care or was ever in foster
care, a former ward of the court, orphaned, or juvenile justice cases. There is no GPA
requirement and they are eligible to be in this program until they are 26 years of age. Wayne
State offers a Foster Care Youth Scholarship Program for youth who were in foster care for at
lease six consecutive months either on or after their 14th birthdays or were adopted on or after
their 16th birthdays. They also offer a mentoring program who partners foster care alumni with
upper level underclassman to assist them in navigating the community. According to the Wayne
State University website, the TIP program also offers crisis support, peer based mentoring,
tutoring services, housing assistance, health care services, and many more services to help foster
care alumni transition to independent living and community life. Only 11 states were receiving
FCIA assistance to allow youth to stay in the foster system until they were 21.
Although there are some young adults who age out of foster care and decide to go to
college after high school, few are able to succeed. These young adults are responsible for
maintaining their own basic livelihood as well as keeping up on their schooling. Many young
adults have to work while attending school in order to pay for their expenses causing many to
fail or drop out of college. If these young adults are not getting good grades and keeping
satisfactory academic progress, they will lose their need-based Pell Grants along with the Chafee
ETV grants that are given to youth attending college after foster care. When these grants are

AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE

taken away, these young adults have no choice but to drop out of college due to financial
difficulty. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2010) of all students who
enter four-year colleges, only 57% have completed their degree six years later. Unfortunately, the
young adults that do continue to stay in the foster system max out at the age of 21, leaving them
to find their own health insurance, place to live, and work longer hours to remain enrolled in
school.
Some of these young adults are able to find jobs after aging out of foster care but
according to Henig (2009) very few are able to keep these jobs and many of these young adults
are only making 5-10 thousand dollars a year, well under the poverty level. There are programs
out there to help young adults who have been in foster care find jobs or obtain the skills they will
need to find jobs. In Maryland UPS has a program called School-to-Career Partnership Program
which allows workplace skill to be learned in a hands-on environment. After completing this
program many of the young adults are referred for interview at the UPS or with other local
employers and the young adults are paid for their work, given health benefits by UPS, and are
reimbursed for college tuition or vocational school resulting in over 300 jobs found for these
young adults (Henig. 2009). There are many other programs that are available to help these at
risk youth find their way in life but these programs are not always made known to the young
adults.
Rep. Cavanagh, personal communication (2014), created a bill in September 2014 to
protect foster care youth from identity theft. According to the Wayne State Universities TIP
website, if this bill is passed The Foster Child Identification Theft Protection Act would require
case workers to annually request a credit report from a consumer reporting agency on each child
who is in foster care and assigned to the caseworker. If the credit report indicates the appearance

AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE

of fraudulent activity in the foster childs name, the caseworker will submit a copy of the credit
report to the court at the childs next 90-day review of the foster childs case service plan. The
court will then order the lawyer-guardian to contact the consumer reporting agency and request
that the consumer reporting agency immediately remove the fraudulent activity from the foster
childs credit report. This will help protect many of the foster care youth from having poor credit
scores due to caregivers who fraudulently use the childs social security number to take out loans
or credit cards. Rep. Cavanaghs aid also supplied the email information to Mr. Jeremy Mitchell
who sits on the board for the TIP program. Mr. Mitchell forwarded the email to Ms. Megan
Pennefather LLMSW who is the campus coach for the TIP program who kindly responded back
to supply more information about the TIP program at Wayne State University. She supplied
information about the actual program as well as the requirements to be in this program. Ms.
Pennefather stated that she greatly enjoys working with this program as well as these youth. She
said she has learned more from these youth then she ever expected to learn. These youth are very
dedicated to this program and enjoy their time at Wayne State University. She also said that she
has not had to remove a single student from this program and many of them have graduated and
are working in successful careers.
Another policy for foster children who have aged out is the Affordable Care Act that went
fully into effect January 2014. According to Emam and Olivia (2014), the ACA has expanded
Medicaid to all youth who have aged out of the system from the time they either turn 18 or are
officially aged out depending on the state, until their 26th birthday. The issue is now the old
agency the child was placed with will have to try and contact the youth who have previously
aged out of the system before 2014, that are still under 26 years old, to alert them to the new
policy change and assist them in signing up for this program. This act can now allow these youth

AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE

to have medical insurance after they have aged out of the system providing them with mental
health services as well as physical health. Many of these young adults need these services and
learn to rely on this such as therapy when they are in the system, but previously to 2014 when the
youth turned 18, they would no longer be able to see a therapist for assistance or a psychiatrist
for medication. This caused many youth to have relapsed episodes if they were suffering from a
mental health disorder. The youth are now going to be able to stay on their medication and live a
more normal life like they are used to. I think this is a great policy change that can help the at
risk youth of the foster care system. I believe the goals of this policy hold social work values
because we believe that everyone should have an equal chance at life and by providing one of the
most basic life necessities for these youth, we are setting them up for success.
According to the Michigan.gov website, Michigan has created a program called the
Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Program which extends foster care for young adults. The
program allows youth to continue to be part of the foster care system until they are 21 years old
as long as they are in school, which can be high school, GED, vocational, or college, in job
training, employed 80 hours per month, or are deemed incapable of participating in employment
or education services due to a medical disorder. This act was signed by Gov. Snyder in 2012 and
if funded by 65-35 slit of federal and state. The program allows an extension of foster care
payments, continued oversight by a caseworker and counseling, and more time to finish high
school or higher education. The young adults who participate in this program are allowed to
continue to live with their current foster parent, rent a house or apartment, or stay in a college
dorm. The requirements for this program are attainable and most of the students are able to
follow them with little difficulty.

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In conclusion, many of the children in the foster system will have to face the issue of
aging out at some point in time. The child welfare system needs to create more awareness of the
programs available for these at risk youth. Although as stated above there are many programs
available for these at risk youth leaving the foster care system, many of them are not aware of
these programs. These young adults need more guidance and stability in their lives because this
instability will affect these young adults for the rest of their lives. Social workers needs to do a
better job advocating for these young adults to help them find a more permanent place of living
and better schools to allow for these young adults to have a better chance at becoming well
rounded citizens when their 18th birthdays come around. Even though Michigan has created a
program to assist youth in the process of becoming adults, there is still much more that can be
done for this population. It is very important to remember that the youth population is our future
and we, as social workers, need to do a better job helping them learn to be functioning adults.

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References

Britcher, L. (2013) Aging out of the foster system in the United States VS. Other countries.
Unpublished Document. Wayne State University.
Eman, D. Golden, O. (2014) The Affordable Care Act and Youth Aging Out of Foster Care: New
opportunities and Strategies for Action. State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center.
http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/The-Affordable-Care-Actand-Youth-Aging-Out-of-Foster-Care.pdf
Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351)
Foster Child Identification Theft Protection Act, MI. 5775. September 9th 2014
Foster Youth in Transition. Michigan DHS Leading Way with New Foster Care Extension for
Young Adults(2012). http://www.michigan.gov/fyit/0,4585,7-240--275050--,00.html
Goodkind, S., Schelbe, L. A., & Shook, J. J. (2011). Why youth leave care: Understandings of
adulthood and transition successes and challenges among youth aging out of child
welfare. Children And Youth Services Review, 33(6), 1039-1048.
doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.01.010
Henig, A. (2009), EMPLOYMENT AID FOR YOUTH AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE:
EXTENDING ONE-STOP CAREER CENTERS TO INCLUDE A DIVISION FOR
FOSTER CARE YOUTH. Family Court Review, 47: 570585. doi: 10.1111/j.17441617.2009.01274.x
Okpych,N.(2012). Policy framework supporting youth agin-out of foster care through college:
Review and recommendations. Children and Youth Services Review,
doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.02.013

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Stott, T. (2012). Placement instability and risky behaviors of youth aging out of foster
care. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 29(1), 61-83.
doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10560-011-0247-8
National Center for Education Statistics(2010). Digest of education statistics:2010LChapter 3:
Postsecondary education. Retired from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/ch_3.asp
Yates, T. M., & Grey, I. K. (2012). Adapting to aging out: Profiles of risk and resilience among
emancipated foster youth.Development and Psychopathology, 24(2), 475-92.
doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579412000107