Many youth in our foster care system are not acquiring the skills needed for self-sufficiency in adulthood. Some youth who leave the foster care system may need continuing services to help them live on their own. Youth who are not adopted or reunited with their families by the time they reach age 18 may not have the housing or educational opportunities they need to get a start in life.
Through the Foster Care Independence Act, Alaska has experienced a significant increase in funding directed towards youth in foster care in order to help these youth transition from foster care to self-sufficiency. This funding will provide Alaska an opportunity to strengthen an identified weakness in its continuum of services to families and youth involved in the foster care system.
The Foster Care Independence Act
The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (H.R. 3443), passed by Congress during the last days of the 1999 session, offers important new help to youth transitioning from foster care. The Act can be an important catalyst in states and communities for broader reforms on behalf of the youth. President Clinton signed the Act into law (P.L. 106-169) on December 14, 1999. Title I of the Act, which contains the most relevant provisions for youth transitioning from foster care:
- Establishes the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (referred to hereafter as the Chafee Independence Program). The program was named in honor of the late Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, one of the original Senate sponsors of the Act and a long time champion for children who have been abused and neglected
- Allows states to provide Medicaid coverage to youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who were in foster care on their 18th birthday
- Increases from $1,000 to $10,000 the assets that a youth in foster care can have and still maintain his or her eligibility for Title IV-E-funded foster care
- Requires states to ensure that foster parents are adequately prepared, both initially and on a continuing basis, to care for the children placed with them
- Authorizes additional funding for adoption incentive payments to the states to assist in finding permanent homes for children in foster care
- The Chafee Independence Program, established in section 477 of the Social Security Act, replaces the former Independent Living Initiative. The former Title IV-E Independent Living Initiative (established in 1986) governed implementation of most federally-supported independent living services from 1987 until December 14, 1999, when the Foster Care Independence Act became law.
The new Chafee Independence Program:
- Increases funding for independent living activities
- Offers increased assistance, including room and board, for youth ages 18 to 21 who are leaving foster care
- Emphasizes the importance of securing permanent families for youth in foster care
- Expands the opportunity for states to offer Medicaid to youth transitioning from care
- Increases state accountability for outcomes for youth transitioning from foster care
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