On Your Own without a Net

Prof. Mark Courtney, director of the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall, a policy research center focused on children, families, and their communities, focuses his work on the adult outcomes of youth involved in foster care. In a 2005 report written for The MacArthur Network on Transitions to Adulthood, Courtney notes a severe limitation of the Chafee Act of 1999, which guarantees $140 million annually to support services targeting youth in foster care through the age of 21. He estimates that around 20,000 youth age out of foster care a year (and, incidentally, about 1,000 of them come from New York City alone), but the funds must stretch out to cover significantly more. According to his calculus, this translates to about $1,400 per eligible youth.

The problem, he says, stems from the narrow focus on youth “aging out” of care, which misses the much larger population of older youth in care, which he defines as 16-18. Since the outcomes of this segment are particularly poorer than those of children who enter (and leave) care at younger ages. Courtney points out that it isn’t simply because these older teens are likely to be living in group homes or other institutions, but that even when they are discharged to parents or other family members, these relationships are often strained, and rarely provide them with the support they need.

You can read more in his chapter of On Your Own without a Net.

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