Panel Paper: Restructuring the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood

Friday, March 29, 2019
Mary Graydon Center - Room 200 (American University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Crystal W Montgomery, Columbia University

Every day a youth is aging out of the foster care system. These youth are typically between the ages of 18-23 and were unable to reunite with their biological families or secure permanency through other options. More often than not when these youth exit the foster care system they show high rates of unemployment and housing instability which results in returning to care for additional supports. Under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program, New York City foster care agencies are contracted through the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) to provide programming geared toward preparing youth for adulthood. This is done by means of monthly independent living life skills workshops facilitated by the Preparing Youth for Adulthood (PYA) department in each agency. Unfortunately, poor structure and program management aide in the negative outcomes faced by this population. To date, the outcomes of foster youth alumni are still not up to par or satisfactory. This is a direct result of the lack of engagement between foster youth and agency staff, lack of attendance in the PYA Independent Living Life Skills Workshops, and lack of structured curriculum that sets a standard to be followed across all agencies to ensure that each youth is receiving the same resources and services. This curriculum should be made with the idea in mind that these youth have experienced multiple traumas that have gone unaddressed as they develop and they are put under an immense amount of pressure to lead and sustain positive life trajectories. As compared to their counterparts, foster youth are expected to grow up at a faster rate and become independent without the additional help from familial supports. The underlying issue is that these youth are not prepared to be self-sufficient at age eighteen or even twenty-one. Given the negative outcomes of youth aging out of foster care, foster care agencies should hire a program evaluation consultant to assist in remodeling their PYA Programs to monitor and track the completion and status of the six goals laid out by ACS on a bi-annual basis. But first, the wording of the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program must be restructured in order to hold agencies accountable to providing and continuing to receive funding for these services.