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Foster Care 1999 Essay, Research Paper

Foster Care Independence Act of 1999

Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents 1

Introduction 2

History 4

Political Forces 8

Values 8

Programs Implemented 8

Funding 11

Intended or Unintended Results 14

Suggestions for Improvements 14

Bibliography 17

Neeley Keith

Dr. Howard

Social Policy

April 25, 2000

Foster Care Independence Act of 1999


Before this bill was signed into law the Federal

Government provided about $70 million per year to conduct

programs for adolescents leaving foster care that are

designed to help them establish independent living.

Research and numerous reports from States conducting these

programs indicate that adolescents leaving foster care do

not fare well. As compared with other adolescents and young

adults their age, they are more likely to quit school, to be

unemployed, to be on welfare, to have mental health

problems, to be parents outside marriage, to be arrested, to

be homeless, and to be the victims of violence and other

crimes (Cook, 1991).

The need for special help for youths ages 18 to 21 who

have left foster care must be recognized to understand why

the passage of this bill was so important. In the majority

of states, emancipation of a foster youth is not determined

by readiness, but happens by statute at 18 or upon

attainment of a high school diploma or GED. Research

demonstrates that young people who emancipate from the

foster care system experience great risk in terms of

emotional, economic, and physical safety. Like all youth in

their age bracket, they are more likely to be unemployed or

underemployed, with the additional burden of less

educational achievement and opportunity. Young people

report that the transition to independence and expected

self-sufficiency is often very rapid, sometimes unplanned

for and unexpected , and results in their feeling “dumped”

(Mech, 1994).

To strengthen the system of support that contributes to

the safety of young people emancipating from the foster care

system we must: Increase early and consistent access to

independent living preparation, especially opportunities for

realistic practice of employment and life skills; ensure the

active involvement of young people in the individual

planning and decision making process that will lead to

successful emancipation; increase access to emergency

shelter, transitional housing, and longer-term affordable

housing options; ensure that no youth is discharged to

homelessness and provide support and concrete assistance,

including health care, basic necessities, and formal

aftercare services through age 21 (Nixon, 1998). These

things listed above are addressed in bill H.R. 3443.

Young people need appropriate information about the

strengths and limitations of all permanency options,

including adoption, legal guardianship, and other permanent

living arrangement, as well as emancipation. Though many

foster teens are adopted each year, emancipation to

independence is the reality for many others. Long lasting,

supportive, and strong connections to family members,

friends, and other adults are critical to young people’s

healthy development while they are in foster care and to

their success in adult life. Young people report that

relationships with people who care about them and are there

for them consistently make all the difference in the world

when they are on their own (Mech, 1994). These are some of

the problems faced by 20,000 foster children who age-out of

care each year.


In the early 1980’s, older adolescents in foster care

and young adults who had been discharged from foster care

become a source of great concern to professionals in human

services and to society at large. Many young people

released from foster care were returning to the care of the

state as adults, either through the welfare or criminal

justice systems, or as residents in shelters for the

homeless(Stone, 1987). At the same time, studies such as

the one conducted by Westat in 1986 showed that about half

of the children in foster care nationally were age 12 or

older, and that many of these teenagers would exit foster

care as adults who must live on their own (Westat, 1988;

Stone, 1987). Public agencies recognized the need to make

fundamental changes in their programs and services for these

older children, particularly in the areas of education,

employment, life-skills, and decision-making.

These concerns culminated in the passage of legislation

creating a federal Independent Living Program in 1986. In

1987, funds were allocated and program implementation began

in all 50 states. In some states, federal funds

supplemented state funds that were already being directed to

the provision of independent living services to older teens

in foster care. Maryland, for example, had recognized the

need for independent living services for teens and begun

implementing a state funded program in 1985.

The Independent Living Program amended in 1990 to

extend eligibility for independent living services to age 21

at state option. This extension recognizes that young

people in foster care often face difficulty in making abrupt

transition out of care at age 18, and that services are more

effective on a longer continuum. In 1993, the Program was

permanently authorized and funded at $70 million. These

funds are distributed to states by formula, and must be

matched dollar for dollar over the original amount allocated

to the state in 1986. Federal Independent Living Program

funds may be used to provide counseling, educational

assistance, life-skill training, and vocational support to

youth in care. Funds were also directed to state and local

independent living staff positions, staff training, foster

parent training, and youth participation activities such as

annual youth independent living conferences.

The Federal Independent Living Program does not require

states to provide specific services (other than an initial

life-skills assessment), and allows great flexibility in

program design. States are required to have a state plan

for independent living services, and individual independent

living plan for each youth participating in the program, and

cooperative and collaborative efforts among agencies. Other

than these basic requirements, states have tremendous

flexibility in designing and delivering independent living

services. Many states’ independent living programs vary

widely across counties and cities as well. Programs in each

state vary according to how social services are

administered, i.e., centrally, through a state department or

social services, or locally, through a county administered

system. The presence of state Independent Living

Coordinators and state-wide Independent Living Advisory

Committees facilitates the sharing of program strategies and

fosters consistency in program implementation.

Federal funds were not to be used to provide room and

board to youth participating in the independent living

program; residential services or other housing assistance

were provided through other funding sources. For example,

in many states, residential placements and subsidized

independent living services were paid through Title IV-E

foster care maintenance funds or other state funds (Cook,


On May 6th 1999, Congresswomen Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT),

Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee

on Ways and Means introduced bill H.R. 3443. The bill was

introduced to assist States in strengthening and expanding

programs for youth emancipating from foster care to help

them establish independent living (Committee on Ways and

Means, 1999).

In a flurry of activity prior to adjournment, Congress

approved legislation to provide additional supports to young

people aging out of foster care. The Foster Care

Independence Act, now recorded as H.R. 3443 was approved by

the House on November 18, and then by just minutes before

the Senate adjourned for the year on November 19. The final

version of the Foster Care Independence Act includes

language from the bill (H.R. 1802) passed by the House in

June. The revised bill also has new provisions reflecting

input from the Senate.

On December 14, 1999, the President signed into law the

Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, Public Law 106-169.

The law includes provisions relating to foster care and

attached to the law are provisions that establishes new

title VIII of the Social Security Act for providing special

cash benefits to certain World War II veterans.

Political Forces

A number of organizations, including CWLA, the National

Resource Center for Youth Development, the National

Independent Living Association and the Daniel Memorial

Institute supported bill H.R. 3443 and provide resources,

information, training and other support to independent

living programs nationwide. Groups or organization opposing

bill H.R. 3443 were not found. The bill had support in the

Senate and the House. The vote in the House was 427 for it

and 8 opposing the bill.


Values underlying this policy would be in support of

the worthy poor. Orphaned children have always been deemed

as worthy poor and it was obvious the needs of the children

aging-out of foster care have without governmental help.

These children are mostly wards of the State and it is the

States responsibility to care for them. Bill H.R. 3443

gives the States more flexibility and funds to assist these

children, the worthy poor.

Social Programs Implemented

Services and programs provided through federally and

state-funded independent living programs represent one part

of the continuum of services and opportunities available to

young people in foster care. Independent Living program

services may include:

Centralized state-wide activities, resources,

information, and program planning available through

federally funded independent living program, and

implemented by the state Independent Living Coordinator

and, if in place, the state Independent Living Advisory


Assessment, life-skills activities, training, support and

case management related to preparation for independent

living provided by individual case workers and

independent living coordinators at the local or county


Residential services, including foster homes, stipend

boarding arrangements, supervised independent living

apartment, residential group care, and apartment-based

independent living programs. These programs may also

include counseling, educational/vocational assistance,

case management, life-skills training, socialization, and

community resource development (Cook, 1986).

Most states offer all the basic services that the

federal Independent Living Initiative supports: education

and/or employment assistance; training in daily life skills;

individual and group counseling; integration and

coordination of services; outreach; and a written individual

transitional living plan for each participant. The

availability of these services varies widely among the

states, as does eligibility for participation in IL

programs. Independent living services, by law, must be

available to all youth in foster care at age 16. Some

states, such as New York, Maryland and Missouri, have chosen

to use state funds to provide independent living services

for youth as young as 13 or 14. Eligibility to receive

services ends at 6 months after emancipation, which occurs

between ages 18 and 21, depending on the state. It is

important to note that the majority of states are reaching

only 50% of the youth eligible to receive independent living

services (Stone, 1987).

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