Extended Foster Care for Youth

with Susan Vivian Mangold Esq. of the Juvenile Law Center

Each year, approximately 20,000 young Americans age out of foster care when they turn 18.

Susan Vivian Mangold Esq., Chief Executive Officer of the Juvenile Law Center, joins host Tetiana Anderson to share how extended foster care can provide stability, opportunity, and a lasting influence into early adulthood.

Posted on:

July 30, 2021

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: There are approximately 424,000 children in foster care in the United States. Each year, approximately 20,000 young people age out, and that puts them at an increased risk for unemployment, for homelessness, incarceration, and more. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Through federal funding, states have had the ability to extend foster care up to age 21. And while 45 states do offer extended care, many foster care children are not choosing that extended care option once they turn 18. Joining me to talk about all of this is Susan Vivian Mangold, Esquire, chief executive officer of Juvenile Law Center. And, Sue, thanks so much for being here.

Mangold: Thanks so much for having me and bringing attention to this issue.

Anderson: So, you know, there are a chunk of people who are not getting services after they turn age 18, even though those services are available. Who are these people, and what are some of the numbers?

Mangold: Right, so there's really three different causes of young people choosing not to participate in extended foster care or not being offered the option to participate in extended foster care. You mentioned, Tetiana, that 45 states participate in offering extended foster care, but not all of them offer the full range that the federal government allows and will provide reimbursement for. So there's an issue at the state level to get all states to pick up on the full range of extended foster care benefits. And then there's the problem that not all agencies or case workers or social workers are preparing young people early enough in their early teens so that by age 18, they have a plan in place and have had a positive experience in foster care so that the young people then will choose to stay in foster care past their 18th birthday. So there's really a state, local, and individual choice issue, all of which goes back to really properly preparing the young people and ensuring that the services are in place that make extended foster care meaningful and attractive to the young person.

Anderson: And, you know, it's a really pivotal age -- age 18. A lot of us remember being there. You know, you're an adult, but you're not fully able to function on your own. What does this age period look like for children in foster care? What's 18, 19, 20 mean for this group? And what are some of the things that they're trying to navigate without that family support unit?

Mangold: Well, you really captured it in the end of your question. I mean, the key thing is that these young people, again, early on, not in months or weeks before their 18th birthday, but throughout their time in foster care, are supported in establishing really meaningful and loving relationships with their family and with other adults, even if they can't live with those people. And the kinds of things they face -- housing stability, education stability, employment, transportation, healthcare -- are similar to other young people at that age, but, of course, more pronounced unless they do have these supportive adults who can assist them to navigate through their late teens and early 20s.

Anderson: And speaking of the early 20s, what does this extension to age 21 really mean? What does it help them do? How does it work?

Mangold: Yeah, so extended foster care is just that. It allows young people to stay in the child welfare system to maintain their placement, whether that's with a foster family, independent living in a supportive apartment, whatever the placement is, with the full range of services that are provided. So they may be assisted with visitation with their family, with their siblings, transportation to medical appointments, to finding employment to work, whatever the full range of services are that that young person needs.

Anderson: And I know that there are some pretty big opportunities for these older youth in terms of COVID relief funding, in terms of education funding. What are some of the things that are on the table, and are they being maximized?

Mangold: They are not being maximized. And so it's really important that teachers, case workers work with young people to ensure that they are benefiting from the COVID relief funding and extended services, the ability to re-enter care if they have left care during COVID up to age 21, and the full range of services that are available, as well as the funding, some of which expires in fall 2021. So those are extended education benefits, placement benefits. You know, no young person should exit foster care to homelessness during a pandemic. And the COVID relief package really tried to address that. And the key, as you mentioned, is for young people to pick up on those additional services that are available to them in foster care or by re-entering care.

Anderson: And are there some other sort of positive opportunities that folks don't know about that are available?

Mangold: I would say the really key ones are the actual cash relief that's available to put funding -- as other adults received as part of COVID relief, to put funding into the hands of young people. But again, Tetiana, some of those programs, which are based on COVID relief, expire in fall 2021. So it's really key that young people and those who support and work with them pick up on those services now, as soon as possible.

Anderson: So, Sue, if people want to find out more about your work, what's the website? Where can they go?

Mangold: Jlc.org Juvenile Law Center maintains what's called the Extended Foster Care Review, which gives information on our website about all 50 states and how they pick up on extended foster care. There's also information on our website about all the COVID relief information and opportunities that we mentioned during this interview. So the website is jlc.org.

Anderson: Susan Vivian Mangold of Juvenile Law Center, thank you so much for being here.

Mangold: Thank you so much for having me and, again, for drawing attention to this issue. Thank you.

Anderson: Thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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