In Transition: A better future for youth leaving foster care

The Center for NYC Affairs at The New School has published a new Child Welfare Watch report about children aging out of the foster care system.

Last year, more than 1,100 New Yorkers aged 18 or older left the city’s foster care system. Despite a decade-long effort to improve services for adolescents in care, many of those young adults aged out of the system into severe poverty, chronic unemployment and an extremely high rate of adult homelessness.

This special double edition of Child Welfare Watch documents the challenges of supporting older adolescents who have grown up in foster care; investigates the ways in which agencies fail to prepare them for successful, independent adulthood; and considers what can be done to help young people before they land in adult social service systems. Its findings include:

*15 percent of young men and women who became adults in New York City foster care entered homeless shelters within two years of leaving the system, according to an unpublished city review.

*More than half of those young adults were mothers, entering shelters with children of their own.

*Girls in foster care are more than twice as likely as their peers to have their own babies. The report considers the particularly high-stakes challenges that these young women face, and documents a program with demonstrated expertise at helping young mothers gain the skills and stability to raise their own children.

*A pioneering NYC housing initiative is providing beds and hands-on experience in the skills of adult living to 400 young people who spent their teenage years in group homes or other institutions.

*Family stabilization services intended to prevent placement of children in foster care are being eroded by budget cuts. The total number of children served by preventive programs declined 23 percent between September 2009 and September 2010.

The report builds on dozens of interviews with current and former foster youth and the people who work with them. It also offers recommendations drafted by a panel of practitioners, experts, parents and others, aimed at helping policymakers better prepare adolescents in their care for life on their own. The full report is available online at the Center for New York City Affairs, www.centernyc.org.

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