Statutes Related to Older Youth in Care
NCSL State Profile Available
NCSL State Profile and Closer Look
Click on a state or territory for a breakdown of statutes addressing the following topics: Driver’s License and Auto Insurance, Diligent Search Requirements to Identify Relatives, Extending Foster Care Beyond Age 18, Health Oversight for Youth in Foster Care, Increasing Placement Stability, Normalcy in Foster Care and Tuition Waivers for Youth in Foster Care. Click on the following links for a closer look at the child welfare systems in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Click on a state to see a breakdown of statutes in that state dealing with each policy area.
Older youth in foster care face unique and sometimes significant challenges as they transition into adulthood. In addition to dealing with challenges common to adolescence, youth in foster care must also contend with the sometimes traumatic events associated with being removed from their families. As a result, older foster youth are at a heightened risk of experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, developmental conditions and other negative outcomes. Many states have developed policies to address these issues and improve the lives of older youth in foster care. See additional 50-state policies for older youth, including financial literacy and housing.
The data map to the left and state profiles below focus on the following eight policy areas:
“Crossover youth” are defined as youth who were maltreated and involved with the juvenile justice system at some point. According to Casey Family Programs, youth who experience maltreatment are 47% more likely to become involved in delinquency than youth from the general population.
Driver’s License and Auto Insurance
The federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act requires states to provide youth preparing to exit foster care with a birth certificate, a Social Security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver’s license or a state identification card. Below is a look at how states have addressed the driver’s license requirement and enacted legislation to reduce the financial barriers to attaining auto insurance for youth aging out of the child welfare system.
Diligent Search Requirements to Identify Relatives
The federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act requires state agencies to exercise “due diligence” when attempting to identify and provide notice to adult relatives of a child who has been removed from their home. Due diligence does not have a precise definition, and states have taken various approaches to satisfy the requirement. An example of due diligence could include requiring child welfare workers to interview known family, friends, teachers, and other identified community members who may have knowledge of the child's relatives, within sixty days of the child entering out-of-home care.
Extending Foster Care Beyond Age 18
As of May 2019, 28 states, the District of Columbia, and nine Tribes have been approved for Title IV-E extended foster care. Under this program, youth are generally allowed to remain in foster care until age 21. Indiana’s maximum age is 20. Some states do not have federally approved extended foster care programs, but instead fund their programs through state appropriations.
Health Care for Youth in Foster Care
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration examined children receiving Medicaid and identified the disparities between those in foster care and those who were not. Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 in foster care were more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, conduct, and disruptive behavior disorders and were over twice as likely to receive inpatient care. The federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act also requires states to develop a plan, in consultation with pediatricians and other experts, for the oversight and coordination of health care services for youth in foster care.
Increasing Placement Stability
The Children’s Bureau conducted a review of state child welfare programs’ conformity with federal standards between 2015 and 2018. Through interviews with stakeholders and case reviews, the department concluded that states were not compliant with all federal mandates. The reviews also noted that the lack of compliance created challenges for older youth as they transitioned from foster care. For instance, placement instability was reported to create safety concerns and negatively impact community connections for youth.
Normalcy in Foster Care
Normalcy is allowing youth in foster care to experience the same opportunities as youth outside of the foster care system. This includes having a summer job, getting a driver’s license, participating in school activities and other age- and developmentally appropriate activities. Research shows that supporting normalcy facilitates healthy development and the well-being of youth in foster care.
Tuition Waivers for Youth in Foster Care
Less than half of youth in foster care will earn a high school diploma or GED, and less than 5% will obtain a bachelor’s degree. The federal Education and Training Vouchers Program is a way for states to financially support youth pursuing post-secondary education and training.