- Report Published -
|Study of Older Youth in Foster Care|
|Department of Social Services|
|SJR 323 (Regular Session, 1993)|
|The 1993 Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 323 requesting:|
"the Department of Social Services to study the impact of requiring local departments of social services to continue foster care payments and services for certain youth over the age of eighteen who are successfully attaining educational, vocational training, or treatment goals. The Department's study should include a cost analysis developed in collaboration with the Department of Planning and Budget and an analysis of the proposal's impact on the Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth and Families."
In response to SJR 323, the department surveyed local departments of social services, analyzed information from the Virginia Client Information System (VACIS), formed a study group to review data, and reviewed other states' policies and applicable research.
Current state foster care policy allows local departments the option of maintaining youth, ages 18-21, in foster care if the youth agrees to remain in care and is in an educational, training, or treatment program begun before age 18. During FY 93, 109 out of 124 local departments of social services served 1,144 youth, ages 18-21, in foster care. This included 538 18-year olds, 404 19-year olds, and 202 20-year olds. Most of the 1,144 youth left foster care during FY 93 with only 220 remaining in care the entire year.
Characteristics of Older Youth in Foster Care: Local departments keep youth over 18 in care because these youth have been in foster care longer resulting in less family support, have experienced educational delays due to life experiences, have more disabilities than younger children in care, and have more difficulty in becoming self-sufficient at age 18. Continuing education, training, or treatment past age 18 provides these youth with needed skills.
Current Policy at the Local Level: Surveys in 1991 and 1992 revealed that most local departments chose to serve youth over age 18 who were participating in education, training, or treatment programs. One hundred and three local departments responding to the survey for this report, covering FY 93, would serve youth over age 18 in foster care who were in educational, training, or treatment programs. Eleven departments reported that they placed additional restrictions on serving youth over age 18.
Impact of Requiring Local Departments to Serve Foster Care Youth Over 18: Eighty-eight local departments predicted little or no impact on number of youth in foster care. Most already serve youth over age 18 and a change in policy would not increase the number of youth in care. Others felt that a mandated policy would have no impact, because many youth want to leave care as soon as possible.
Fourteen predicted an increase in the number of youth in foster care. Those predicting an increase generally did not currently have youth over 18 in care, placed more restrictions on the youth they serve than the mandated policy would, or felt mandates generally increase numbers served.
Local departments identified only 12 additional youth who would have remained in care last year had there been a requirement to serve all youth, 18-21, who were successfully participating in educational, training, or treatment programs. Because local departments are already serving this population and identified only 12 additional youth who would be served as a result of a mandated policy, the Department of Planning and Budget concluded that, statewide, the financial impact of requiring local departments to serve youth from 18 to 21 years of age would be minimal.
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE NEED FOR POLICY CHANGES
To promote consistent practices throughout the state and self-sufficiency for youth in foster care, the following is recommended:
Recommendation 1: The Virginia Department of Social Services needs to strengthen policy to require that local departments of social services provide services to foster care youth, ages 18-21, who agree to remain in care, are making progress in educational, training, or treatment programs and need continuing assistance from local departments to make progress toward educational, training, or treatment goals. Policy would require youth to enter into an agreement which outlines responsibilities for the youth.
Recommendation 2: The department needs to analyze the impact of allowing a grace period for youth who have been emancipated to come back into foster care.
Recommendation 3: The department needs to study the impact of allowing local agencies to continue youth in foster care until age 22 who are receiving special education services.
Recommendation 4: The department should further study how to address the needs of foster care youth over 18 who have severe disabilities and are unable to give informed consent to remain in foster care, enter into an agreement, or make other decisions.
Recommendation 5: The department needs to continue to monitor the provision of services to this population with implementation of the Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth and Families.