Top Stories of 2019: Kenneth, One of Many Teens the System Struggled to Help

We’re counting down 10 of the biggest stories The Imprint published in 2019. Each day, we’ll connect readers with a few links to our coverage on a big story from this past year.

Across the country, more than 117,000 teens are living in foster care and in 2018, nearly 18,000 aged out of the system without permanency, according to federal data. How systems care for and support teens varies from state to state.

This year our coverage highlighted the various ways systems are supporting – or failing – teens in foster care.

Lead Read

We shared the heartbreaking story of one New York foster youth and how the system continued to fail Kenneth to the point that a judge held a commissioner in contempt over the agency’s treatment of the disabled youth.

Also Read

In Arkansas, the high number of teens living in group homes and the challenges those youth face was emphasized in 26-year-old Kendra Owen’s reflection of her time spent in care with her siblings. The ongoing difficulties in that state’s system showcases how systems often fail to operate in the best interest of teen youth in care.

While most states have extended foster care beyond age 18 to assist youth as they enter adulthood, a Government Accountability Office report found that two states are navigating the system to access more federal funds to help older youth. Tennessee and Illinois have expanded federal support of their program for youth by officially closing the cases of teens who age out and then bringing them back in as a voluntary placement. Other states could expand their support of older youth by following Tennessee and Illinois’ lead.


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