Policy Meets Management: The Case of Extending Foster Care
By Becky Kelleman, Rutgers University
The roundtable discussion Policy Meets Management: The Case of Extending Foster Care, moderated by Matthew Stagner from Mathematica Policy Research, included contributions from Catherine Heath, Mark Courtney and Debra Zanders-Willis.
Catherine Heath, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explained the extension of foster care for children from 18 to 21 responds to a need to better help youth transition from the system to being more independent. In order to qualify for an extension, youth must satisfy certain criteria: youth must be in foster care since age 16; youth must have completed their high school diploma or G.E.D.; youth must continue into some higher education or training; youth must work 80 hours per month. Many states already had some program in place, shared Heath, when funding became available most states simply retrofitted programs in order to be eligible for the federal grant.
Mark Courtney, from the University of Chicago, discussed findings from an implementation study of extended care. Courtney had investigated a stratified sampling of over 700 youth continuing in the foster care system in California. The most notable findings were the great collaborations made between organizations and philanthropists, but a major challenge continues to be the limited resources available for successfully implementing a transitional program for youth.
Debra Zanders-Willis, from San Diego County Health and Human Services in California, shared San Diego County’s approach to implementing the extension on foster care. California recognizes those continuing in foster care as non-dependent minors. The primary goals in extending foster care of San Diego are: mitigate homelessness, increase high school completion, promote self-sufficiency, and make a permanent connection outside of the system. However, these goals are met with specific challenges including: out of state and out of county monthly visitations, increased need for youth mentors, and challenges from the court.
All speakers at the roundtable agreed there will be significant challenges in implementation. The extension of foster care is changing mindsets for those overseeing the youth transition down to the youth themselves. The aim is to make a difference in the lives of young people and prepare them for the obstacles they will face.