Increased Funding, Eligibility for Chafee Program
The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program, a group of 12 former foster youth who have completed congressional internships.
The annual program is overseen by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that raises awareness about the needs of children without families. Each of the participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation from Christian Sotomayor, a fourth-year student at the University of California, Berkeley.
Sotomayor recommends that Congress pass an amendment of the John H. Chafee Foster Care for Successful Transition to Adulthood program, which was created in the 1990s and provides support to states for independent living and academic support for youth and young adults who have experienced foster care.
His proposed amendments would increase the annual funding of Chafee to $243 million, a $100 million increase from its current authorization, and make any youth who spent more than a year in foster care eligible up to age 26. Currently, only older youth who experienced foster care can access the program funding.
Sotomayor would also inject more flexibility into the program as far as how a current or former foster youth could use financial assistance from Chafee. He would also create an incentive within the program for state agencies that helped establish campus support programs for foster youth at colleges and universities.
Sotomayor argues that the original vision of Chafee is right: help those who experienced foster care transition into adulthood. But, he argues, the reach of the program is curtailed in two important ways: The amount of funding is not commensurate with the demand, and states use their own eligibility rules to limit the potential pool.
Further, Sotomayor notes, there is a communication breakdown: “Some youth with experience in foster care have never even heard of Chafee.”
In Their Own Words
“Early in my life, I spent time in foster care. Although I was eventually reunified with my family, I continue to encounter the lingering effects of my experience in foster care to this day. After vocalizing my concerns to friends, I was connected with Berkeley Hope Scholars, a local program created to provide assistance to any youth in need of support.
“The program provided me with the resources I needed to succeed academically and personally. This support from mentoring, books, food, housing, and financial assistance is helping me become a successful, stable adult.”