Foster Care Independence Act Of 1999

3304 words - 13 pages

Foster Care Independence Act of 1999

Before this bill was signed into law the Federal
Government provided about $70 million per year to conduct
programs for adolescents leaving foster care that are
designed to help them establish independent living.
Research and numerous reports from States conducting these
programs indicate that adolescents leaving foster care do
not fare well. As compared with other adolescents and young
adults their age, they are more likely to quit school, to be
unemployed, to be on welfare, to have mental health
problems, to be parents outside marriage, to be arrested, to
be homeless, and to be the victims of violence and other
crimes (Cook, 1991).
The need for special help for youths ages 18 to 21 who
have left foster care must be recognized to understand why
the passage of this bill was so important. In the majority
of states, emancipation of a foster youth is not determined
by readiness, but happens by statute at 18 or upon
attainment of a high school diploma or GED. Research
demonstrates that young people who emancipate from the
foster care system experience great risk in terms of
emotional, economic, and physical safety. Like all youth in
their age bracket, they are more likely to be unemployed or
underemployed, with the additional burden of less
educational achievement and opportunity. Young people
report that the transition to independence and expected
self-sufficiency is often very rapid, sometimes unplanned
for and unexpected , and results in their feeling "dumped"
(Mech, 1994).
To strengthen the system of support that contributes to
the safety of young people emancipating from the foster care
system we must: Increase early and consistent access to
independent living preparation, especially opportunities for
realistic practice of employment and life skills; ensure the
active involvement of young people in the individual
planning and decision making process that will lead to
successful emancipation; increase access to emergency
shelter, transitional housing, and longer-term affordable
housing options; ensure that no youth is discharged to
homelessness and provide support and concrete assistance,
including health care, basic necessities, and formal
aftercare services through age 21 (Nixon, 1998). These
things listed above are addressed in bill H.R. 3443.
Young people need appropriate information about the
strengths and limitations of all permanency options,
including adoption, legal guardianship, and other permanent
living arrangement, as well as emancipation. Though many
foster teens are adopted each year, emancipation to
independence is the reality for many others. Long lasting,
supportive, and strong connections to family members,
friends, and other adults are critical to young people's
healthy development while they are in foster care and to
their success in adult life. Young people report that
relationships with people who care about them and...

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