Housing Options for Young Adults in Extended Foster Care Vary Across and Within States
A majority of states have extended federally funded foster care to age 21. Child welfare agencies are now increasingly responsible for the care and supervision of young adults whose developmental needs are qualitatively different from those of young adults under age 18. That responsibility includes providing young adults in foster care with a safe, stable, and developmentally appropriate place to live. However, there are large gaps in our knowledge of best practices for housing young adults in extended care, the housing options currently available to those young adults, and how those options vary across and within states.
What we did
A team of researchers from the Urban Institute and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago had conversations with child welfare officials from states with a large number of young adults in extended federally funded foster care (EFFC). We also held a convening in Washington, DC with research team members, federal project officers and other federal agency staff, state and local child welfare agency officials, staff from private child welfare agencies that serve special populations of youth, and two young adult consultants who had formerly been in foster care. We synthesized what we learned from the state officials and the major themes that emerged during the convening.
What we found
We identified three primary types of housing for young adults in EFFC (family-based settings, congregate care settings, and supervised independent living settings) and multiple examples of housing options within each type. However, not every housing option is available to every young adult or in every jurisdiction. Decisions about the type of housing in which young adults in EFFC live appear to be driven by many factors related to child welfare agency policy and practice, housing provider offerings, and the preferences and needs of young adults. Housing young adults in EFFC presents the child welfare system and the practitioners who work directly with young adults with several challenges. Some of these challenges are related to the supply of housing; others are related to the transition from EFFC to independent living.
What it means
Greater attention should be paid to federal, state, and local policies that either facilitate or impede the expansion of housing options for youth in EFFC and to modifying current policies or formulating new ones to increase the housing options available to those youth. Additional research is needed to understand the relationship between housing options and young adult outcomes, and how that relationship varies among different subpopulations of youth in EFFC.