More than a third of older foster youth in transitional housing placements in California were involuntarily removed, according to a new report.
A John Burton Advocates for Youth report looks at how youth in California used the Transitional Housing Placement-Plus (THP-Plus) and THP-Plus Foster Care (THP+FC) programs during the 2016-2017 year and how they fared upon exiting, in addition to other data.
The California state legislature created the THP-Plus Program in 2001 in response to high rates of homelessness among former foster youth. It serves former foster youth ages 18 to 24.
After the passage of a bill (Assembly Bill 12) that extended foster care benefits in California to age 21 in 2010, the THP+FC program was created to offer affordable housing to youth transitioning to adulthood plus some oversight using Title IV-E funding. This program serves youth from age 18 to 21.
California-based advocacy organization John Burton Advocates for Youth has been analyzing the two programs and producing a report every year for the past decade. This year for the first time they looked at average length of stay in the programs and the rates of involuntary discharges.
They found that in both programs youth are staying for just a little more than a year, despite being allowed to remain for two or three years if they are working or in school. In each of the programs, at least one-third of the youth were involuntarily discharged.
These results are concerning because youth exiting these programs are especially vulnerable to unemployment, poverty and homelessness, Amy Lemley, executive director of John Burton Advocates for Youth, said in a webinar about the report last month.
“It’s not like they’re in the program and springboarding to the middle class,” Lemley said. “They’re leaving the programs pretty economically fragile. They’re leaving the programs low-income and marginally employed.”
Involuntary exits are often due to program noncompliance, which results from not meeting the requirements of the programs, such as being in school or working, Lemley said.
In THP+FC, 23 percent of youth who left involuntarily were enrolled in school or working, which Lemley said begs questions about why those youth are being discharged and whether housing providers are imposing their own rules on youth in ways that could violate California housing laws. For example, property damage could be a reason for discharge, but is that legal and is it warranted?
Lemley said providers and policymakers should aim to increase lengths of stay in the programs and reduce involuntary discharges.
“It really is time for us to step back and ask ourselves how we can promote young people to engage in these programs for a longer period of time,” Lemley said.
Involuntary exits accounted for 33 percent of all exits from THP+FC and 36 percent of all exits from THP-Plus.
In THP+FC, which can serve youth for three years, the average length of stay was 14.1 months, according to the report.
In THP-Plus the average length of stay was 13.1 months. This program was created to allow youth to remain for two years, but 28 counties in California have extended it to three years for students who are in school or working.
When youth are discharged from these programs, voluntarily or involuntarily, homelessness is the immediate result for six percent of those exiting THP+FC and for nine percent of those exiting THP-Plus, according to the report.