#4: Continuity of mental health services after foster care
The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program, a group of 11 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation of Hailey D’Elia, a recent graduate of Rowan University in New Jersey.
Congress should add new requirements around mental health service guarantees for youth who are aging out of foster care, including assessments 60 days before emancipation and flexible therapy options under Medicaid.
Foster youth experience mental health challenges at a rate that far exceeds their peers, D’Elia argues, and the COVID-19 epidemic has only made their needs more acute. And while mental health services are often available to foster youth while in care, she writes, it too often disappears once they leave the system.
Among the most alarming statistics D’Elia cites: a 2015 study finding that 61% of youth received mental health services for depressive symptoms, but only 39% of youth received services by the end of the study, after exiting care.
In Their Own Words
“I aged out of foster care completely unprepared to tackle adulthood, and even less prepared to face what came next — an unexpected pandemic that placed not only our country on lockdown, but required me to face the immediate and inner trauma of loss that had built up throughout my entire life.”
The Imprint’s Take
The Affordable Care Act guaranteed Medicaid eligibility for foster youth through the age of 26, identical to the length of time that children are allowed to remain on their parents’ health care plans. This provides the infrastructure for better support, but more can be done to ensure it’s utilized.
A mental health screening two months before aging out is just good common sense; we should want to know how young people are feeling about that transition specifically, and what challenges they are experiencing more broadly as they move into adulthood. And D’Elia’s proposal that Medicaid guarantee telehealth options is in line with what we are learning from the coronavirus: such delivery is preferred by some.