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Entering adulthood is usually marked with anticipation and enthusiasm for most youth individuals. This is the stage when the individual begins to explore their individuality and their independence; which, can either be positive or negative. Most youth individuals rely on family and other supportive people to help them during this transition by providing emotional safety and guidance. However, support like these is often unavailable to those who are leaving the system. Within the United States, estimated that more than 428,000 children are in foster care and the average length of stay is approximately two years and about 20,000 or more foster youth are emancipated from the system and do not have the means to provide and care for themselves. Those who leave the system are at risk of homelessness, unemployment, unchecked mental illness, delinquency, unintended pregnancies, low educational attainment, etc.
Legislative laws and programs were created to resolve this issue. The first step was made in 1999, the Independent Living Program was created thanks to the Foster Care Independence Act. This amendment increased funding in each state so that they can provide services and health care such as Medicaid to youth individual in the system until the age of 21. In 2008, The Federal Fostering Connection to Success and Increasing Adoption Act was created and amended the title IV-E program. This gave the state the option of allowing the youth individual to remain in care past the age of 18. For example, states that have opt-in extended living foster care allow youth individual to remain in till the age of 21. This amendment has its own requirements. For instance, they must be enrolled in a secondary school or vocational program.
So, what is the problem? There are 50 states and only 25 states have adopted the legislative laws to extend foster care beyond the age 18. In result, youth individuals that are raised in foster care with no stability, family to lean on for financial and emotional support will face many obstacles as they go through different phases of their lives.
The extended living foster care program will provide an opportunity for youth individual to voluntarily agree to remain in care past the age of 18. The sole purpose is to provide quality case management services to individual youth that are preparing to age out of care. Also, to promote independence and empower our youth by addressing their needs and ensuring the necessary service is available and accessible through case management service. The case manager is to assist them through various services such as housing, education consulting services, healthcare, financing, etc. until the age of 21 years old. The outcome is that, through the Extended Living program, each youth individual will have access to gain the necessary life skills to transition from foster care to living independently.
Stakeholders are imperative because they can help contribute to the success of the program. The foster care system is a huge entity; hence, unity is essential and required to ensure the sense of well-being is maintained accordingly. Moreover, the stakeholder can facilitate networking and initiate collaboration with other community providers. The most important stakeholder is the government because they are responsible for funding and enacting laws that will contribute to youth well-being while they are in care. The second group of stakeholders would be agencies, former foster youth, and the caregivers, child welfare agencies and advocates. This group will ensure the beneficiaries demonstrate the optimal results. They can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of child welfare programs. Ongoing collaboration and have an open and honest dialogue about the community views the child welfare system, and their concerns can be a great start on adopting change.
Per the National Conference of State Legislator, “the government are held accountable for oversight of child welfare systems and work to ensure that the needs of child welfare system-involved families are met. Without, proper funding, laws, and support, the program would not be able to service the youth effectively and efficiently. According to the NASW Code of Ethics, it is the role and duty of social workers to empower individuals of all ages by assisting them in becoming productive members of society. As an Experience Case Manager for Child Welfare, I have seen plenty of children come in and out of care. For those who are aging out, it was my job to prepare them for the next phase of their lives by providing the resources, guidance, and support. Not only will the government a framework to guide the non-profit organizations but will ensure that each agency is following the state-mandated rules accordingly.
In conclusion, the adolescence stage is one of the critical steps in human development because it’s the passage between childhood and adulthood. the program is a strength-based program as it aims to ensure each youth has the resource and tools, they need to overcome any challenges by providing them workforce training, life skills, housing, and education. Extended foster care is put in place to decrease those risk by providing them the tools and resources they need to navigate through life independently. In addition, through empowerment, we hope to instill the values of hard work and making healthy life choices on their own.
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