TAGS: Fostering Basics
Written by Foster Team
“More than a third of Washington's foster kids become homeless after leaving care. But in Tennessee, there's a possible solution, and Washington is looking at copying it.” — Many Washington foster kids become homeless. Tennessee may have found a solution., Seattle Times
In 2013, over 33% of foster youth became homeless after aging out of the foster care system in Washington State. It’s a problem that exists across the country, where children eventually lose the support and resources they’ve relied on throughout childhood, and sometimes for a majority of their lives.
In Tennessee, a relatively new program called YVLifeSet seeks to provide transitional support for foster children aging out of the system.
In 2013, over 33% of foster youth became homeless after aging out of the foster care system in Washington State.
YVLifeSet: Making Time for Caseworkers and Clients
According to a recent report by the Seattle Times, the average child-welfare worker in Washington has a caseload of 19 youth. In Tennessee, YVLifeSet ensures caseworkers only see 8-10 youth. Reduced caseloads allow social workers to spend more time with young adults who benefit from increased support. Instead of merely connecting previous foster care with housing, caseworkers help youth learn how to support themselves, find housing, secure jobs, and create a stable life.
YVLifeSet has been in operation since 2007, and the results are hard to ignore. Comparing Tennessee’s foster care homelessness rates to Washington's reveals the effect that YVLifeSet has had.
In a survey of young adults that had aged out of foster care, 27% of 19-year-olds in Washington State said they had experienced homelessness since leaving foster care. In Tennessee, that number was just 16%.
Those results have garnered the attention of Washington State lawmakers. After a pilot program demonstrated positive results in King County, Governor Jay Inslee included $1.3 million to expand Washington’s YVLifeSet program in his budget for 2019-2021. But, some critics of the program argue that it simply costs too much money.
Better Transitions Start with Better Foster Care
Transitional programs like YVLifeSet offer improved resources for foster children aging out of the system, but we shouldn't rely on them as a fix for some of the significant gaps that exist within the foster care system.
“It’s important to have programs for youth that age out of the system or are homeless leaving foster care, but we can’t lose sight of ensuring they don’t age out or run from foster care,” says WACF Executive Director, Jill May.
There's never been a better time to become a foster parent. Specifically, the foster care system in Washington State needs more families from a wider array of backgrounds. Foster parents that can connect with a child early on in life have the opportunity to pass on skills and resources that can help foster children leave the system without becoming homeless.
In particular, May calls for an increased number of foster parents from the LGBTQ community. “There’s a large number of homeless youth that are LGBTQ. The foster care system has to find more families to care for these youth. This requires more training and a better assessment of families prior to being licensed,” notes May.
With more families like you, and greater resources available for foster children, fewer foster youth will age out of the system without a network of support. And if they do, we’re optimistic that improved programs like YVLifeSet will be there to help them.
Foster a better life for a foster care youth today. Get contacted by a private agency to talk about caring for a young adult who needs your help.