Each year, approximately 25,000 young people "age out" of the foster care system in the U.S., many of them facing significant risks of becoming homeless. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), today marked National Foster Care Month by releasing a new report chronicling the housing needs of young people leaving foster care, and documenting the array of housing options available to this population.
Housing for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care seeks to address knowledge gaps related to the housing options available to former foster youth and to provide policymakers with recommendations for future research and policy improvements.
"All the available research underscores that these young people are too often faced with the hard choice of being precariously housed or living on our streets or in our shelters," said Dr. Katherine O'Regan, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. "As we work toward ending homelessness, policy makers at every level of government must consider the unique challenges of young people who exit a system of care with little or no housing options available to them."
Adolescents typically age out of foster care on their 18th birthday although a number of states extended the age of emancipation to 21 which permit youth to remain in foster care for up to three more years. Key findings of HUD's study include:
While much is known about the high risk of homelessness among young people aging out of foster care, there is little evidence to support interventions (housing or otherwise) that might prevent or end homelessness among this population.
Less than half of all Public Housing Authorities administering HUD's Family Unification Program (FUP) are serving youth, choosing instead to target this form of rental assistance to assist families involved in the child welfare system. In 2013, youth accounted for approximately 14 percent of households assisted under this special purpose voucher program.
Decisions by Public Child Welfare Agencies on whether to serve families, youth or both vary by community and may be influenced by a number of programmatic challenges to serving youth that may be constricting referrals of youth to the public housing agency.
After HUD launched this study in 2012, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness amended Opening Doors, the Federal Government's strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. This amendment builds upon the goal to end family homelessness by 2020 by outlining particular measures to prevent and end homelessness for unaccompanied youth, including the subpopulation of youth, ages 16-24, aging out of foster care.