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Report: Easing Obstacles for Iowa Foster Youth Would Aid Adult Success

Foster homes provide temporary care for children who are unable to remain in their own homes. (chw.org)
Foster homes provide temporary care for children who are unable to remain in their own homes. (chw.org)
November 15, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa's foster children who lose their support systems at age 18 often struggle with long-term success as adults, according to a new report.

The report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a first-of-its-kind data brief that shows why older youths and teens benefit from extended care.

Nationwide, 25 percent of children in the foster care population are age 14 and older, while in Iowa it's 32 percent.

Carol Behrer with the Youth Policy Institute of Iowa says in 2015 Iowa was sixth in the nation for children in the state's foster care system.

"We have too many young people that are still placed in group care or congregate care settings and then we haven't extended foster care beyond age 18 in this state, and a lot of research suggests that increasing the age at which young people can stay in care improves their outcomes," she states.

African-Americans represent just 4 percent of Iowa's population, but youths from those families represent 17 percent of the foster care population.

That makes those children very vulnerable, according to Leslie Gross, director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative with the Casey Foundation.

"Young people of color in over half of the states are three times more likely to be in care than their white counterparts,” she points out. “They're more likely to have three or more placements while they're in care and they're more likely to transition out of care without a permanent family."

The primary goal of foster care is reunification of the child with the family, and 70 percent of children in foster care are reunited with their birth families or adopted by relatives.

But Behrer says Iowa's efforts to successfully launch foster children into adulthood would be eased by offering them support long-term.

"And if that's not possible, to be a mentor for a young person who is in this kind of situation,” she states. “Somebody to meet them for lunch occasionally is really incredibly valuable for this population."

Foster youths in Iowa are less likely than their peers nationwide to have stable housing or obtain their high school diploma or GED by age 21.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA