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Helping NY Teens Transition Out of Foster Care

In New York, 80 percent of kids in foster care earn a high school diploma or GED by age 21. (pxhere)
In New York, 80 percent of kids in foster care earn a high school diploma or GED by age 21. (pxhere)
November 14, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York is doing relatively well in helping young people in foster care transition to adult life, but there's room for improvement.

A new 50-state report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed, nationally, young people leaving the foster care system lag behind their peers in education, employment and secure housing.

The report says New York State is a leader in providing effective assistance in those areas. But the state still falls behind in ensuring permanent placement in family settings - an important factor for kids' future success.

According Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizen's Committee for Children of New York, New York City has reduced the number of foster youth in group homes, but other parts of the state are still struggling.

"That might be because of the distance between settings, more rural counties,” March said. “But it's a priority now to begin to reduce the numbers in group homes and residential placement facilities."

The Casey report showed 40 percent of youth in foster care in the state are in group homes, compared to 34 percent nationwide.

Leslie Gross, director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, pointed out that establishing and maintaining lifetime connections with adults is a key factor in helping young people make the transition from foster care to independence.

"This really means supporting biological families so that young people can stay at home,” Gross said; “and if they have to be in care, policies that support young people, as well as foster families who are willing to care for older youth."

She added the data show that young people of color are far more likely to be in foster care, to have multiple placements, and to leave care without a permanent family.

Securing affordable housing is another challenge for those aging out of the system. Rent in New York can be very high. March noted the state does offer housing subsidies to youth transitioning out of foster care.

"It provides about $300 a month in support,” she said. “And we've long hoped that they would double that amount to ensure that kids can remain more stably housed once out of foster care."

The report emphasizes the need for state laws and policies that make finding permanent placements and family for older youth in foster care an urgent priority.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY