A pipeline to housing stability 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 seven former foster youth who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer 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 Anna Rose Thelemaque, 20, a student at the University of Connecticut.
Thelemaque proposes legislation that would further the cause of ending the “foster care to homelessness pipeline.” Her plan would include ensuring that the Foster Youth to Independence program — which consists of recyclable housing vouchers for youth exiting care for up to five years — was sufficiently funded to meet the need of any young person aging out who wanted it.
She would also establish a universal housing assistance screening program for youth aging out of foster care, wherein social workers with competency in housing policies and supports would assist former foster youth with housing stability through the age of 26. And, she would have Congress establish a demonstration program to forget partnerships between child welfare agencies and landlords or management firms willing to set aside housing for those exiting the system.
The recently established Foster Youth to Independence program, along with some other avenues of housing support, offer a connection to stability after foster care for those aging out of the system. Thelemaque argues that access to these supports should be an entitlement to avoid a scenario where foster youth are “competing for the same limited pot of resources and services that support the entire population of individuals experiencing homelessness.”
In Their Own Words
“When I was no longer allowed to live on-campus, I sought help from a variety of resources. However, most were unable to provide me with a consistent place to live which resulted in a lengthy period of couch surfing.”
The Imprint’s Take
We think Thelemaque is onto something with the concept of a universal housing assistance screen. Why not actually widen that out though to require a broader screening for transition-age youth that identifies the full range of benefits and safety net supports available to them? The system sort of operates under the assumption that a youth’s regular caseworker is going to handle those connections, but the evidence is clear that this is an irrational assumption.
Because Foster Youth to Independence is still a very new concept, it is not clear if more money needs to be guaranteed to it at the moment. The higher priority seems to be getting systems around the country to realize the potential of that lifeline for older youth who are facing adulthood alone.