Chafee Funding for Foster Youth: Flat-Funded Since 1999
What is the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program?
The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-169) is authorized under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. This funding is targets towards preparing teens in foster care to become independent when they transition into young adulthood. The purpose of this allocation is to support and empower foster youth to build successful adult lives.
What can Chafee funding be spent on?
- Approved spending categories include: Life Skills Assessments, Personal Decision-making and Communication Skills, Finances and Money Management, Education (including Educational Training Vouchers), Jobs and Career Preparation, Housing and Life Skills Preparation, Cooking and Cleaning, Self-Care and Health, Sexual Education and Family Planning, Community Connections, Youth Advisory Boards and Aftercare.
- Up to 30% of a state’s Independent Program funds can be spent on room and board for youth ages 18-23 who have left foster care.
Why should we care that Chafee has remained flat-funded since 1999?
This matters because the age parameters of the foster youth population receiving Chafee- funded serves have increased since 1999:
- The 2014 Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980) required state child welfare agencies are required by federal law to begin independent living preparation services at age 14. Early preparation increases the likelihood of high school graduation, successful engagement with the workforce, and the development of interpersonal skills such as communication and decision-making.
- The Family First Prevention Services Act (P.L. 115-123) allowed states to extend aftercare services for foster youth up to age 23, and extended eligibility to Education and Training Vouchers until age 26.
Unfortunately no additional funding was provided to assist with the increased costs of staffing and provision of services.
Why aren’t current systems working to solve this problem?
States are unable provide all eligible foster youth with consistent access to independent living and aftercare services, because 1999 funding levels are insufficient to meet the needs of the 2020 population of foster youth between ages 14-23. The cost of living has increased as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, average prices in 2020 are 54.25% higher than what average prices were in 1999.
|Increased Population in Need of Services|
|Our nation’s Chafee funds were relied on to provide independent living preparation for foster youth between ages 16-18.||Our nation’s Chafee funds are relied upon to serve foster youth between ages 14-23, including ETV vouchers up until age 26.|
How does it cost us to ignore the problem?
Expanding the ages served by this program without adding to the level of funding has led to insufficient and inconsistent services for this population. Without support, young people who “age out” of the foster care system and enter adulthood without support are at high risk for poverty, unemployment, incarceration and chronic homelessness. Parents invest in their children because they want them to grow and become productive adults who contribute to society. Likewise, teens in foster care are considered “wards of the state,” and preparing them for adulthood increases the likelihood of positive outcomes.
Research by the Children’s Advocacy Institute demonstrates that early investment leads to foster youth being three times more likely to enroll in college, 65% less likely to be arrested, and a 33% reduction in unwed pregnancy.
|Young adults from the population at large||Family, school, healthcare, financial and social supports (i.e. financial and housing help during college)||High school graduation, post-secondary training, good jobs, minimum crime or welfare|
|Young who “age out” of the foster care system without preparation or support||Fractured safety net, inadequate preparation, lack of knowledge about resources||High levels of public assistance, homelessness, incarceration, poor job prospects|
|Foster youth who receive preparation and support for adulthood||Structured independent living preparation, resource knowledge, education, early workforce opportunities, mentoring, support system||Educational attainment, employment, and welfare/prison rates at same proportions as the population at large|
What’s the solution?
Investments must be made into the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. Funding for this program must be increased in order to meet the needs of the increased population. Supporting the needs of the nation’s foster youth, whose only legal parent is the government, must to be considered an entitlement, rather than as discretionary spending.