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Helping Teens Transition Out of Foster Care

An important new study looked at common efforts to help teenagers transition out of foster care.  The study looked at 4,800 not-identified foster teenagers in a national database, and tracked outcomes for them.  The study found, not surprisingly, that teens who remained in foster care or received financial/academic assistance through age 19 showed fewer incidents of homelessness or incarceration.  

People who have parented teenagers know that those last teen years are extremely important times for young people to mature and develop life skills.  The surprise was that teens who left the system but received training in independent living skills had higher incidents of homelessness.  

Given that avoiding homelessness is one of the chief goals of independent living programs, this study raises a lot of red flags for nonprofits and policy makers.  As always, one study is not dispositive.  But we certainly need to pay attention and figure out what is happening to our foster teens.

Remaining in foster care and continuous receipt of financial assistance services at ages 17–19 protected foster youth from incarceration at ages 19–21. But, surprisingly, continuous receipt of housing education and home management training, and health education and risk prevention training at ages 17–19 were each associated with increased risk of homelessness at ages 19–21.


foster care, youth serving organizations