“Aging Out” of Foster Care
25 is the New 21: The Costs and Benefits of Providing Extended Care and Maintenance to Ontario Youth in Care Until Age 25
The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
Canada – Ontario
Seven cost-benefit analyses have been undertaken in the United States and Australia to examine the costs to society of providing extra supports to youth in care after the age of 18. The studies reveal vastly different approaches, assumptions, and data sources. Yet all reach the same conclusion: increased investment in services for youth transitioning from care yield benefits in the long term.
This is the first such study to be done in Canada. The analysis is based on the best and most promising aspects of the seven cost-benefit analyses mentioned above. The report examines available Ontario data, as well as Canadian and international sources, to estimate the cost of a program extension in Ontario. It also estimates the savings that could be achieved by bettering the lives of youth aging out of care.
The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
Canada – Ontario
For some time now, across the province, youth in and from care have been speaking out about the many issues now contained in this report. After voicing those concerns to Irwin Elman, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, we decided to plan and hold two days of public hearings on the issues facing youth as we age out of care. On November 18th and 25th, 2011, the Youth Leaving Care Hearings took place at Queen’s Park, home of the Ontario Legislature. This is the report that came out of the submissions we received.
The purpose of this report is to improve the experiences and lives of youth in and leaving care. It includes a deeply personal glimpse into our lives. It provides decision-makers with one key recommendation designed to trigger fundamental change. It also gives six more recommendations for what could be done right now to better the lives of youth in and leaving care. This report is meant for everyone. Change is needed and we need your help to get there; no one can do it alone.
Independent living programs and services for youth ‘aging out’ of care in Canada and the U.S.: A systematic review
Melanie M. Doucet, Johanna K.P. Greeson, & Nehal Eldeeb
USA & Canada
Evidence from American and Canadian studies over the last three decades demonstrates that youth exiting foster care are at a much higher risk to face a multiplicity of challenges than their peers who are not in care. These challenges result in negative outcomes, such as high rates of homelessness, under-education, unemployment or under-employment, poverty, mental health issues and post-traumatic stress, substance abuse and early pregnancy or parenthood. This systematic review addresses Independent Living Program (ILP) and Independent Living Services (ILS) studies in the U.S. and Canada published between 2000 and 2018. In order to compile a list of relevant ILP and ILS impact studies, a bibliographic search of six databases was conducted for the peer-reviewed literature, and the grey literature was searched using Google and expert consultation. The search yielded a total of 64 studies after applying our study selection protocol, with 50 from the peer review literature and 14 from the grey literature. The clear majority of studies originated from the U.S., with only three Canadian studies emerging from the grey literature. This is most likely due to differences in mandated data collection and reporting. In the U.S., data collection and reporting is mandatory under the Foster Care Independence Act in 1999. In Canada, there is no such mandatory reporting as child welfare services are under the sole jurisdiction of the provinces, with no Federal government involvement aside from First Nations children and youth. Studies to date suggest that ILP and ILS are not producing the intended outcomes, with limited to no impact demonstrated on youth leaving care wellbeing outcomes. In fact, some of the studies found a negative impact, especially related to social support. Much of the ILP and ILS studies did not incorporate the voices of youth in care, but rather focused on program process and components, staff experiences, and outcome measures such as social support, employment, income, housing and self-sufficiency. Of the limited ILP and ILS studies incorporating youth perspectives, youth in care often indicated that emotional support and mentoring are crucial needs during the transition to adulthood, which are often not the focus of ILP or ILS. Moreover, compared to the U.S., program impact studies in Canada are sorely lacking; more research needs to be done in this area to build our knowledge of evidence-based and best practices. This systematic review highlights two main conclusions: (1) Both the U.S. and Canada sorely need innovation with respect to preparing youth in care for the transition to adulthood; and (2) We also must commit to using rigorous research designs with such programming to determine the impact of such new approaches. In sum, we must reconceptualize our investment in youth in care and focus on their interdependence in order to realize their potential.
June C. Paul
Former foster youth are often uniquely disenfranchised, as many suffer from a lack of support (e.g., financial, informational, emotional) resulting from their involvement in foster care. Although all youth who exit foster care as adults may have difficulty accessing the support they need to become healthy-functioning adults, these issues may be exacerbated for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) youth who face added health and wellbeing challenges associated with their sexual and/or gender minority statuses. This study used face-to-face, qualitative interviewing and eco-mapping techniques to explore the experiences and perspectives of 21 LGBTQ foster youth, ages 17–21, to identify and describe who provides them with support, the kinds of support they have received, and whether there were any specific support-related needs and challenges they may be experiencing during this critical time. Results revealed that although many LGBTQ foster youth included a variety of child welfare professionals (e.g., caseworkers, foster parents) and other service providers (e.g., teachers, therapists) within their support networks, the majority experienced several unmet needs and challenges—most of which were associated with their sexual and/or gender minority statuses. Multiple themes were identified, including a lack of attention to safety and protection from risks of harm and access to essential care and services (e.g., LGBTQ affirming health care, safe and supportive housing, LGBTQ community-based resources, guidance related to LGBTQ identity development). Results provide initial understanding and awareness of some of the support-related issues and challenges faced by these youth, and help to build a framework of knowledge from which to develop further hypotheses regarding how LGBTQ youth are faring in our nation’s child welfare system. Implications for child welfare policy, practice, and research are discussed.
Nicholas Bala, Brittany Chaput
This paper examines the provisions of the federal Divorce Act and Ontario’s Family Law Act that impose an obligation on parents to support adult children, and reviews leading cases interpreting this legislation. While this remains a contentious and discretionary area, there are some clear trends in the case law. Social and economic changes have resulted in “delayed adulthood;” young adults are living with their parents longer as well as looking to parents for financial support for increasingly long periods of post-secondary education. These changes are reflected in changing judicial attitudes to support of adult children whose parents have separated or divorced: compared to two decades ago, the courts are recognizing a greater and longer obligation to provide support for adult children. For higher income payors, this may extend to support for a professional degree or further education after an undergraduate degree, with support until the mid-twenties. When an adult child has a disability and continues to reside with one parent and receive care and support from that parent, the courts may extend the support obligation into the late 20’s and beyond, though social assistance and disability pensions will be taken into account in setting the amount of this obligation.
Stephanie Cosner Berzin, Erin Singer, Kimberly Hokanson
Emerging adulthood has been defined as a distinct developmental stage in which youth experience opportunities for identity development and transition toward independence. While this period has been examined for youth in the general population, less is known about how foster youth experience this transition. This study uses qualitative interviews with 20 foster youth to understand their experiences during emerging adulthood. Consensual qualitative research is used to analyze data and develop core themes around youth experiences. Foster youth not only report sharing many characteristics with youth in the general population during this stage but also have experiences that are uniquely tied to their foster care history. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Michelle R. Munson, Brittany R. Lee, David Miller, Andrea Cole, Cristina Nedelcu
Recent research has indicated that emerging adulthood, the late teen years and early twenties, is a distinct developmental period, which occurs gradually and is often filled with exploration, stress, uncertainty and a lack of a distinct role in life. Few studies, however, have examined how emerging adulthood tenets are experienced by young people involved with social service systems. With this in mind, 59 young adults, ages 18 to 25, participated in in-depth interviews regarding their perspectives on transitioning to adulthood and adulthood. Participants were struggling with emotional difficulties, and shared a childhood history, which included a mood disorder diagnosis and utilization of public mental health and social services (e.g., child welfare, juvenile justice, and/or public welfare). The study sought to understand whether or not young adults with mental health and social service histories experience similar (or different) dimensions of mainstream emerging adulthood developmental theory during the late teens and early twenties. Theoretical thematic analysis indicated support not only for the theory of emerging adulthood, but also aspects unique to this sub-population. Implications for practice, policy and research are discussed.
Why Youth Leave Care: Understandings of Adulthood and Transition Successes and Challenges Among Youth Aging Out of Child Welfare
Sara Goodkind, Lisa A. Schelbe, Jeffrey J. Shook
Child welfare policies and practices are changing to allow more youth to remain in care beyond age 18. Yet, the majority of youth do not stay. Given recent evidence suggesting that remaining in care may be beneficial, there is a need to understand why youth leave. Using data gathered from in-depth interviews with young people aging out of care, this paper explores this question, relating it to youths’ understandings of adulthood and the successes and challenges they face during their transitions. We find that youth leave care because of misunderstanding and misinformation about the requirements for remaining in care, as well as because of a desire for autonomy and independence. Specifically, many youth equated adulthood with independence, and thus felt that they needed to leave care to achieve adulthood. Unfortunately, these efforts to be independent often hinder youths’ development of supportive relationships, which they reported to be one of the greatest challenges in their transitions. Based on these findings, we conclude by challenging the conflation of adulthood and independence, as well as of childhood and dependence, calling for connected autonomy as a goal for child welfare involved young people of all ages.
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
In terms of normative development, emerging adulthood has five features that distinguish it from the adolescence that proceeds it or the young adulthood that follows it. Emerging adulthood is the age of identity explorations, the age of instability, the self-focused age, the age of feeling in between, and the age of possibilities. These are not features that exist only in emerging adulthood, but they are more pronounced in emerging adulthood than at other ages.
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Emerging adulthood is proposed as a new conception of development for the period from the late teens through the twenties, with a focus on ages 18-25. A theoretical background is presented. Then evidence is provided to support the idea that emerging adulthood is a distinct period demographically, subjectively, and in terms of identity explorations. How emerging adulthood differs from adolescence and young adulthood is explained. Finally, a cultural context for the idea of emerging adulthood is outlined, and it is specified that emerging adulthood exists only in cultures that allow young people a prolonged period of independent role exploration during the late teens and twenties.
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
The lives of people from age eighteen to twenty-nine change dramatically but recently this change has become more profound and a new stage of life has developed. Known as “emerging adulthood”, this stage is distinct from both the adolescence that precedes it and the young adulthood that comes in its wake. Rather than marrying and becoming parents in their early twenties, most people in industrialized societies now postpone these transitions until at least their late twenties. This book identifies and labels this period of limbo, exploration, instability, possibility, and self-focus. An increasing number of emerging adults emphasize the importance of meaningful and satisfying work to a degree not seen in prior generations. Marrying later and exploring more casual sexual relationships have created different hopes and fears concerning long-term commitments and the differences between love and sex. Emerging adults also face the challenge of defending their non-traditional lifestyles to parents and others outside their generation who have made more traditional choices. In contrast to previous portrayals of emerging adults, the book’s research shows that they are particularly skilled at maintaining contradictory emotions — they are confident while still being wary, and optimistic in the face of large degrees of uncertainty.
Erica L. Green
The Biden administration proposes spending $20 billion over a decade to help some of the most vulnerable families in the country, including relatives suddenly thrust into child rearing.