Youth placed in out-of-home care through the juvenile court experience many transitions. While in care, youth move from placement to placement and ultimately return home, transition to another permanency option or emancipate from the system to independence. For juvenile court youth, transition often results in problems with accessing education, health care benefits, stable housing and economic supports. Youth who “age out of” (exit) the foster care or juvenile justice system after age 18, face tremendous challenges.
Emancipated juvenile court youth are more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, unplanned pregnancy, adult criminal court involvement, and substance abuse. They are also less likely to earn enough to support themselves, have a high school diploma, and enroll in college or other postsecondary education or training. Juvenile court involved youth need effective transitional planning as well as assistance and supports to overcome the obstacles they face while transitioning. YLC advocates for system changes to support successful transitions for youth while in or when exiting care.
The Youth Law Center has worked for years to develop, promote and implement legislative solutions to the problems created by the abrupt termination of support for youth in the foster care system at age 18. California’s Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2010 (AB 12) extends eligibility for foster care and other benefits for foster youth who would of otherwise aged out of the system at age 18.
The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) recognizes that young adults may have difficulty obtaining affordable, comprehensive health care coverage on their own, and that the cost of coverage can interfere with plans for college or embarking on a career. As a result, the ACA permits young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. For youth who emancipate from foster care and do not have access to health insurance through their parents, the ACA provides continued coverage through Medicaid.
Youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems placed in out-of –home care experience many transitions back to community settings where they encounter obstacles to reintegration. Transition often results in problems with school enrollment, accessing health care benefits and economic supports, and maintaining or obtaining housing.