Washington, DC - On any given day, there are over 400,000 children in our nation’s foster care system with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted.
Every year, 23,000 of these youth will age out of the system, never having found their forever families. We have seen that youth who age out of foster care without a permanent placement often face challenges with completing their education, unemployment, financial security and the criminal justice system. We also know that there continues to be a disproportionate representation of African-American and Native-American children and youth in foster care. Like the significant commitments being made today, the recommendations in the My Brother's Keeper Federal Taskforce report identify improving the lives of foster youth as an important goal.
As part of its support for stable homes and strong support structures for foster children, the White House is announcing today new steps that the Administration and our partners are taking to help support the foster youth in our nation’s care. Furthermore, the White House today is also hosting current foster youth and foster care alumni from around the country for an event featuring Vice President Biden that will culminate in the screening of the new film Annie.
Ensuring Access to Healthy Meals
- Joint Letter on Free School Meals: The Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health and Human Services have issued a joint letter from the Secretaries to chief state school officers outlining the categorical eligibility of foster children under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 for free school meals without the submission of a household school meal application. The letter also suggests strategies for school districts to reach out to families whose foster children have not been automatically receiving free school meals. In addition, the letter provides information on the Community Eligibility Program, which allows qualifying schools to provide free meals to all students without household applications.
Protecting the Welfare of Native Youth
- Indian Child Welfare Act Compliance: To protect Indian children from being illegally removed from their families, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is redoubling its efforts to support the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), launching a new initiative to promote compliance with ICWA. Under this important effort, DOJ will actively identify state-court cases where the United States can file briefs opposing the unnecessary and illegal removal of Indian children from their families and their tribal communities. DOJ will work with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law. The Departments, as well as tribes and Indian child-welfare organizations across the country, will work together to explore training for state judges and agencies, to promote tribes’ authority to make placement decisions affecting tribal children, to gather information about where ICWA is being systematically violated and to take appropriate, targeted action to ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.
Building Financial Security
- Credit Check Letter: The Department of Health and Human services has issued a letter to state child welfare agencies highlighting the benefits of checking credit for foster youth of all ages, the benefits of more frequent checks and the importance of ensuring that every child in care receives a credit check, even if that means performing some individual checks beyond scheduled pooled credit checks. The letter will also encourage states to explore all prevention activities, including options for credit blocks and high risk fraud alerts for young people in care.
- Financial Empowerment Toolkit: Developed by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children, Youth, and Families and Office of Community Services, this toolkit is designed to provide caseworkers, independent living skills providers, foster parents and other supportive adults with strategies and resources to critically evaluate and improve their current ability to promote financial capability for youth in foster care. It is designed for those working with youth under the age of 18 and young adults preparing to transition out of the foster care system. The toolkit is a compilation of lessons learned, best practices and practical tools, which can be used together or separately, to help service providers methodically choose and integrate new system strategies, programs or interventions to improve the financial capacity of the youth they serve. Additionally, content and tools can be tailored to meet stakeholder needs based on the intended outcomes of their services and the characteristics of the populations they are serving.
Keeping Young People in Their Homes and Out of the Justice System
- Pay for Success (PFS): The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), a leading organization focused on evidence and impact in the overlap between foster care and the juvenile justice system, has been selected as a winner in the Social Innovation Fund’s inaugural PFS grant competition. NCCD will release a request for proposal offering matched federal funding and technical assistance to assess the feasibility of using PFS to scale promising interventions aimed at responsibly preventing entry into the foster care system, reducing cross-over between foster care and juvenile justice systems and safely reducing the length of system involvement for youth in these systems.
- State-Level Innovation: Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy will deploy federal funds in support of two new and innovative evidence-based solutions to help keep children and families together and promote positive child health and development.
o MOMS Partnership is a dual-generation solution for low-income, single mothers and their children. Coordinated by the Yale University School of Medicine with the City of New Haven and community organizations, this program will address depression and toxic and environmental stress among mothers who may be at risk of having their children placed in foster care.
o Caregiver Substance Use and Recovery Services, a new program, developed in collaboration with the Harvard Kennedy School Social Impact Bond Lab, will use proven solutions in working with parents confronting substance abuse challenges by providing recovery supports and wrap-around services to support parents in their recovery journey.
Through these efforts, we can prevent removing children from their families or reunify them more quickly, yielding many benefits to children, families and government by reducing entries into the child welfare system and long-term stays in foster care.
Creating Clear Pathways to Employment
- Web-Based Employment Tool: The Department of Labor, working in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, will release a web-based tool for youth in foster care, resource parents, independent living coordinators and other stakeholders, which will provide easy access to all of Labor’s best youth employment resources and targeted links into its Career One Stop e-tools site. The website is being created with the input of foster youth from around the country, specifically working with the DC Child and Family Services Agency, Federation Employment and Guidance Services, Juvenile Law Center, the Urban Alliance, Maine Youth Leadership Advisory Team and Youth Villages. The web-based tool will be released for Foster Care Month 2015.
- Training for Job Counselors: In 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) will release a training webinar for case managers in local American Job Centers to familiarize them with the challenges confronting youth in foster care and how to best support their transition to employment using the Department’s tools. DOL will also host a companion webinar to educate independent living coordinators on the services available through American Job Centers.
Supporting Educational Success
- Fostering Connections Technical Assistance: In FY2015, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education will join forces to participate in town halls across the country, meeting with local school districts and child welfare agencies to improve the implementation of the education stability provisions of the Fostering Connections Act of 2008. Through these town halls, the Departments will collect feedback on what works and what challenges remain, while also identifying how the Administration can help improve education outcomes for children and youth in care.
Developing Public Service and Private Investment Opportunities:
- College Advising Corps: The College Advising Corps is making a commitment to dedicate resources and develop a curriculum and training specifically targeted to serving foster youth, as well as utilize the foster youth they have in their corps for targeted advising and recruit more former foster youth into their ranks. College Advising Corps works to increase the number of low-income and first generation college graduates by pairing high school students and recent college graduates through evidence-based near peer advising and e-advising.
- Youth Homelessness: We know that young people who have experienced foster care and those who have aged out of care face homelessness at higher rates than their peers. In response to this serious issue, Casey Family Programs, in collaboration with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and other key partners, will be supporting an effort to improve the outcomes for homeless youth, including the development of a more reliable mechanism to count the number of homeless youth. This effort will also engage communities in aligning and implementing more effective policies, programs and resources to reduce homelessness among youth, especially those who were previously involved in the foster care system.
- Native Youth: Casey Family Programs (CFP) is launching a multi-year strategic consulting agreement to support the growth and development of tribal child welfare services with the Navajo Nation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Montana), the Gila River Indian Community (Arizona) and the Spirit Lake Tribe (North Dakota). CFP will also continue working with tribes, including Red Lake Nation (Minnesota), Zuni Pueblo (New Mexico) and Grande Ronde (Oregon), who have developed successful strategies to recruit and retain foster homes on their reservations in an effort to keep their children in foster care on the reservation. CFP is working to document and spread their successful strategies in order to assist other tribes in keeping their children in foster care home on their reservations.
Foster youth, like all youth, do best with a permanent and loving family. To learn more about how you can make a difference, visit >www.AdoptUSKids.org< for information on how to become a foster or adoptive family.