Keeping Foster Youth off the Streets in New York City

Executive Summary

Improving Housing Outcomes for Youth Who Age Out Of Foster Care

Out of the 6,712 youths discharged from foster care in New York City in 2011, 13.2% were between 18 and 21 years old and had aged out of care. When these youth age out of care, they are on their own. They do not have a safety net of a family or aftercare services to fall back on when they need help. And this is a population that needs such support.

Within three years as many as 231 youths, who aged out in 2011, are likely to come into a city homeless shelter, according to recent foster youth homeless statistics. Notably, this figure does not include all the youth who are effectively homeless and temporarily staying on the couch of someone they know or are sleeping on the streets.

This report by the Federation of Protestant WelfareAgencies (FPWA),  “Keeping Foster Youth Off TheStreets: Improving Housing Outcomes for Youth that Age Out of Care in New York City,”  presents an evaluation of the operation of New York City’s child welfare system to ensure youth who have aged out of foster care will reside in stable living situations. The report was written in response to caseworkers at FPWA member agencies who continue to voice their frustrations about how to achieve the best housing outcomes for youth aging out, which indicated the need for systems-level reforms. FPWA drafted this report to show that housing instability for youth who age out remains an ongoing, serious problem.

This report provides recommendations that the new mayoral administration could implement to improve housing outcomes for these youth. To our knowledge, this is the only report in recent years that has focused primarily on housing outcomes for youth who age out of care in New York City. To draft the report, FPWA gathered research, analyzed data, and reviewed relevant policies and regulations regarding the operation of the child welfare system for youth aging out of care. FPWA promotes the social and economic well-being of greater New York’s most vulnerable by advocating for just public policies and strengthening human service organizations.

A Heroic Effort to Realize Hopes and Dreams Amid the many youths aging out of foster care, there are individuals who daily wage heroic struggles to overcome the challenges. Maureen, not her real name, is one of them. She left the foster care system in New York City in2013 at 21 years old. Until then Maureen had served as a role model for a small high-risk population with many capabilities that can thrive and save the city money if given the right support. Hard-working and responsible, Maureen works full-time as a cashier on the late-night shift at a fast-food restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She has also been going to college, although she recently took off a semester to save money.

Thanks to her foster mother’s caring and supportive home environment, she was able to graduate high school and enroll in college. She explains: “Like I spent 4 years of my life happy… I had my own room with two beds and it was great. We would go on vacation down south to see her family like, you know. like a normal family would.”Her foster care caseworker had been dedicated and committed, going above and beyond what was needed, and Maureen had been extremely diligent in following instructions to prepare for the transition out of care.”

Original Article: Keeping Foster Youth Off the Streets