Foster Care 1999 Essay, Research Paper
Foster Care Independence Act of 1999
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
Political Forces 8
Programs Implemented 8
Intended or Unintended Results 14
Suggestions for Improvements 14
April 25, 2000
Foster Care Independence Act of 1999
Before this bill was signed into law the Federal
Government provided about $70 million per year to conduct
programs for adolescents leaving foster care that are
designed to help them establish independent living.
Research and numerous reports from States conducting these
programs indicate that adolescents leaving foster care do
not fare well. As compared with other adolescents and young
adults their age, they are more likely to quit school, to be
unemployed, to be on welfare, to have mental health
problems, to be parents outside marriage, to be arrested, to
be homeless, and to be the victims of violence and other
crimes (Cook, 1991).
The need for special help for youths ages 18 to 21 who
have left foster care must be recognized to understand why
the passage of this bill was so important. In the majority
of states, emancipation of a foster youth is not determined
by readiness, but happens by statute at 18 or upon
attainment of a high school diploma or GED. Research
demonstrates that young people who emancipate from the
foster care system experience great risk in terms of
emotional, economic, and physical safety. Like all youth in
their age bracket, they are more likely to be unemployed or
underemployed, with the additional burden of less
educational achievement and opportunity. Young people
report that the transition to independence and expected
self-sufficiency is often very rapid, sometimes unplanned
for and unexpected , and results in their feeling “dumped”
To strengthen the system of support that contributes to
the safety of young people emancipating from the foster care
system we must: Increase early and consistent access to
independent living preparation, especially opportunities for
realistic practice of employment and life skills; ensure the
active involvement of young people in the individual
planning and decision making process that will lead to
successful emancipation; increase access to emergency
shelter, transitional housing, and longer-term affordable
housing options; ensure that no youth is discharged to
homelessness and provide support and concrete assistance,
including health care, basic necessities, and formal
aftercare services through age 21 (Nixon, 1998). These
things listed above are addressed in bill H.R. 3443.
Young people need appropriate information about the
strengths and limitations of all permanency options,
including adoption, legal guardianship, and other permanent
living arrangement, as well as emancipation. Though many
foster teens are adopted each year, emancipation to
independence is the reality for many others. Long lasting,
supportive, and strong connections to family members,
friends, and other adults are critical to young people’s
healthy development while they are in foster care and to
their success in adult life. Young people report that
relationships with people who care about them and are there
for them consistently make all the difference in the world
when they are on their own (Mech, 1994). These are some of
the problems faced by 20,000 foster children who age-out of
care each year.
In the early 1980’s, older adolescents in foster care
and young adults who had been discharged from foster care
become a source of great concern to professionals in human
services and to society at large. Many young people
released from foster care were returning to the care of the
state as adults, either through the welfare or criminal
justice systems, or as residents in shelters for the
homeless(Stone, 1987). At the same time, studies such as
the one conducted by Westat in 1986 showed that about half
of the children in foster care nationally were age 12 or
older, and that many of these teenagers would exit foster
care as adults who must live on their own (Westat, 1988;
Stone, 1987). Public agencies recognized the need to make
fundamental changes in their programs and services for these
older children, particularly in the areas of education,
employment, life-skills, and decision-making.
These concerns culminated in the passage of legislation
creating a federal Independent Living Program in 1986. In
1987, funds were allocated and program implementation began
in all 50 states. In some states, federal funds
supplemented state funds that were already being directed to
the provision of independent living services to older teens
in foster care. Maryland, for example, had recognized the
need for independent living services for teens and begun
implementing a state funded program in 1985.
The Independent Living Program amended in 1990 to
extend eligibility for independent living services to age 21
at state option. This extension recognizes that young
people in foster care often face difficulty in making abrupt
transition out of care at age 18, and that services are more
effective on a longer continuum. In 1993, the Program was
permanently authorized and funded at $70 million. These
funds are distributed to states by formula, and must be
matched dollar for dollar over the original amount allocated
to the state in 1986. Federal Independent Living Program
funds may be used to provide counseling, educational
assistance, life-skill training, and vocational support to
youth in care. Funds were also directed to state and local
independent living staff positions, staff training, foster
parent training, and youth participation activities such as
annual youth independent living conferences.
The Federal Independent Living Program does not require
states to provide specific services (other than an initial
life-skills assessment), and allows great flexibility in
program design. States are required to have a state plan
for independent living services, and individual independent
living plan for each youth participating in the program, and
cooperative and collaborative efforts among agencies. Other
than these basic requirements, states have tremendous
flexibility in designing and delivering independent living
services. Many states’ independent living programs vary
widely across counties and cities as well. Programs in each
state vary according to how social services are
administered, i.e., centrally, through a state department or
social services, or locally, through a county administered
system. The presence of state Independent Living
Coordinators and state-wide Independent Living Advisory
Committees facilitates the sharing of program strategies and
fosters consistency in program implementation.
Federal funds were not to be used to provide room and
board to youth participating in the independent living
program; residential services or other housing assistance
were provided through other funding sources. For example,
in many states, residential placements and subsidized
independent living services were paid through Title IV-E
foster care maintenance funds or other state funds (Cook,
On May 6th 1999, Congresswomen Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT),
Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee
on Ways and Means introduced bill H.R. 3443. The bill was
introduced to assist States in strengthening and expanding
programs for youth emancipating from foster care to help
them establish independent living (Committee on Ways and
In a flurry of activity prior to adjournment, Congress
approved legislation to provide additional supports to young
people aging out of foster care. The Foster Care
Independence Act, now recorded as H.R. 3443 was approved by
the House on November 18, and then by just minutes before
the Senate adjourned for the year on November 19. The final
version of the Foster Care Independence Act includes
language from the bill (H.R. 1802) passed by the House in
June. The revised bill also has new provisions reflecting
input from the Senate.
On December 14, 1999, the President signed into law the
Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, Public Law 106-169.
The law includes provisions relating to foster care and
attached to the law are provisions that establishes new
title VIII of the Social Security Act for providing special
cash benefits to certain World War II veterans.
A number of organizations, including CWLA, the National
Resource Center for Youth Development, the National
Independent Living Association and the Daniel Memorial
Institute supported bill H.R. 3443 and provide resources,
information, training and other support to independent
living programs nationwide. Groups or organization opposing
bill H.R. 3443 were not found. The bill had support in the
Senate and the House. The vote in the House was 427 for it
and 8 opposing the bill.
Values underlying this policy would be in support of
the worthy poor. Orphaned children have always been deemed
as worthy poor and it was obvious the needs of the children
aging-out of foster care have without governmental help.
These children are mostly wards of the State and it is the
States responsibility to care for them. Bill H.R. 3443
gives the States more flexibility and funds to assist these
children, the worthy poor.
Social Programs Implemented
Services and programs provided through federally and
state-funded independent living programs represent one part
of the continuum of services and opportunities available to
young people in foster care. Independent Living program
services may include:
Centralized state-wide activities, resources,
information, and program planning available through
federally funded independent living program, and
implemented by the state Independent Living Coordinator
and, if in place, the state Independent Living Advisory
Assessment, life-skills activities, training, support and
case management related to preparation for independent
living provided by individual case workers and
independent living coordinators at the local or county
Residential services, including foster homes, stipend
boarding arrangements, supervised independent living
apartment, residential group care, and apartment-based
independent living programs. These programs may also
include counseling, educational/vocational assistance,
case management, life-skills training, socialization, and
community resource development (Cook, 1986).
Most states offer all the basic services that the
federal Independent Living Initiative supports: education
and/or employment assistance; training in daily life skills;
individual and group counseling; integration and
coordination of services; outreach; and a written individual
transitional living plan for each participant. The
availability of these services varies widely among the
states, as does eligibility for participation in IL
programs. Independent living services, by law, must be
available to all youth in foster care at age 16. Some
states, such as New York, Maryland and Missouri, have chosen
to use state funds to provide independent living services
for youth as young as 13 or 14. Eligibility to receive
services ends at 6 months after emancipation, which occurs
between ages 18 and 21, depending on the state. It is
important to note that the majority of states are reaching
only 50% of the youth eligible to receive independent living
services (Stone, 1987).
Completion of a high school education, and
participation in higher education, are some of the strongest
indicators of future ability to achieve and maintain
self-sufficiency after discharge from Social
Services’custody (Cook, Fleishman, & Grimes, 1991). Youth
who receive support from the state (their legal “parent”) up
to age 21 and who participate in post-secondary education
programs may be more likely to obtain living-wage
employment, less likely to become pregnant as teenagers,
less likely to become involved in the criminal justice
system, and less likely to become homeless or join the
welfare rolls after discharge.
This is a fairly new public law so the effectiveness of
the law is unstudied. It will be years before anyone will
know if the bill helped the foster children who aged-out of
foster care. It looks hopeful that the bill reaches it’s
One of the goals for bill H.R. 3443 is to increases
funds to states to assist youths to make the transition from
foster care to independent living. Federal funding for the
Independent Living program was doubled – from $70 million to
$140 million a year. Funds can be used to help youths make
the transition from foster care to self-sufficiency by
offering them the education, vocational and employment
training necessary to obtain employment and prepare for post
secondary education, training in daily living skills,
substance abuse prevention, pregnancy prevention and
preventive health activities, and connections to dedicated
States must contribute a 20 percent state match for
Independent Living Program funds. States must use federal
training funds (authorized by Title IV-E of the Social
Security Act) to help foster parents, adoptive parents,
group home workers, and case managers to address issues
confronting adolescents preparing for independent living.
States must use some portion of their funds for assistance
and services for older youths who have left foster care but
have not reached age 21 (Cook, 1991). States can use up to
30 percent of the Independent Living Program funds for room
and board for youths ages 18 to 21 who have left foster
care. States may extend Medicaid to 18, 19, and
20-year-olds who have been emancipated from foster care
(Schor, 1982). Access to the new independent living funds
is not contingent upon states exercising that option.
The bill offers states greater flexibility in designing
their independent living programs. States can serve
children of various ages who need help preparing for
self-sufficiency (not just those ages 16 and over as in
pervious law), children at various stages of achieving
independence, and children in different parts of the state
differently; they also can use a variety of providers to
deliver independent living services. The assets limit for
the federal foster care program was changed to allow youths
to have $10,000 in savings (rather than the current $1,000
limit) and still be eligible for foster care payments (Nixon
Bill H.R. 3443 establishes accountability for states in
implementing the independent living programs. The Secretary
of Health and Human Services (HHS) must, in consultation
with federal, state, and local officials, advocates, youth
service providers, and researchers, develop outcome measures
to assess state performance. Outcomes include education
attainment, employment, avoidance of dependency,
homelessness, non-marital childbirth, high-risk behaviors,
and incarceration. HHS must also collect necessary to track
how many children are receiving services, services received
and provided, and implement a plan for collecting needed
information. HHS must also report to Congress and propose
state accountability procedures and penalties for
States must coordinate the independent living funds
with other funding sources for similar services. States
are subject to penalty if they misuse funds or fail to
submit required data on state performance. $2.1 million was
set aside for a national evaluation and for technical
assistance to states in assisting youths transitioning from
The total amount of funds authorized for bill H.R.3443
was $140 million; however, the FY 2000 appropriation is $105
million. Therefore, the total amount available for State
allotments in FY 2000 is $102,900,000. Also, Puerto Rico
will participate in Federal program for the first time,
increasing to 52 the total number of jurisdictions
participation in the Independent Living Programs.
In line with current appropriation law, States must
spend FY 1998 and FY 1999 monies in accordance with the
former Section 477 provisions. No FY 1998 or FY 1999 funds
may be expended for costs incurred under the new provisions
implemented by Public Law 106-169. For example, no room and
board or services for children younger than 16 may be
provided with funds awarded prior to the enactment of the
new law. Also, amounts paid to the State under the law must
be used to supplement, not supplant, any other funds
available for the same general purposes.
Intended or Unintended Results
Intended benefits have already been discussed. They
include more educated foster children who would be more
employable, less foster children who become pregnant, less
foster children involved in the criminal justice system and
Unintended results may include a group of young adults
that are still dependent on the state after turning 21.
This may cause more aged-out foster children to enroll into
welfare rolls and cause them to feel entitled to benefits.
Suggestions for Improvements
More money is needed to implement these services
appropriately. This would be the first change to be made.
An allotment of $30,000 per child for four years would be
set aside to pay university tuition. There would be a
requirement that all foster children either receive a high
school diploma or receive a GED by their 18th birthday and
enroll in a university or vocational school.
Personal and social functioning, health, education and
employment are all critical areas of well-being for young
people as they move toward adulthood. The experience that
result in children and youth being placed in foster care, as
well as the actual experience of foster care, can create
barriers to achieving well-being in any or all of these
areas. Coordinated efforts on the part of policymakers,
public official, caregivers, service providers, educators,
community members, and youth themselves would be critical to
the positive development of young people making the
transition to productive interdependence. Young people who
have left the foster care system say the disruptions in
education due to changing placements, inadequate preparation
for the workplace, lack of access to physical and mental
health care, and the immediate struggle for day-to-day
survival after leaving care make planning for a good future
very, very difficult. To ensure the well-being of
transitioning foster youth, I would: provide a continuum of
support and preparation for adulthood that begins when a
child or youth enters foster care and continues through the
post-emancipation period; stabilize foster care placements
to ensure educational continuity and achievement; increase
youth involvement in the planning and delivery of services
to transitioning youth at local, state, and national levels;
create national and local networks of foster youths and
former foster youths that will enhance overall levels of
support and participation; provide opportunities for
organizations serving older youth to network with each
other, communicate strategies, and coordinate service
delivery; facilitate greater coordination among and between
national and local education, housing, health, employment,
and assistance programs to better serve this population and
ensure accountability through data collection on 6-24 month
outcomes for youth leaving foster care and evaluation of
independent living services.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAAP), Committee on Early
Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care. (1994,
February). Health care of children in foster care.
Pediatrics 93 (2), 1 – 4.
Burrell, K. & Perez-Ferreiro, V. (1995). A National Review
of Management of the Federally Funded Independent
Living Program. Boston, MA: Harvard UP. (Malcolm
Wiener Center for Social Policy, John F. Kennedy School
Child Welfare League of America. (1989). CWLA standards for
independent living services. Washington, DC: Author.
Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human
Resources, Hearing Advisory (1999).[Online].
Cook, R. (1991). A national evaluation of Title IV-E foster
care independent living programs for youth: Phase 2.
Rockville, MD: Westat, Inc. (Contract No. OHDS
105-87-1608, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Cook, R., & Ansell, D.I. (1986). Independent living service
for youth in substitute care. Prepared for the
Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. Rockville, MD:
Westat, Inc., Contract OHOS 105-84-1814.
Cook, R., Fleishman, E., & Grimes, V.(1991) A national
evaluation of Title IV-E foster care independent living
programs for youth, Phase 2. (Final Report for Contract
105-87-1608). Rockville, MD: Westat, Inc.
Halfon, N., Berkowitz, G., & Klee, L. (1992a) Children in
foster care in California: An examination of Medicaid
reimbursed health services utilization. Pediatrics 89,
Hochstadt, N., Jaudes, P., Zimo, D., & Schachter, J. (1987).
The medical and psychosocial needs of children entering
foster care. Child Abuse and Neglect 11, 3-62.
Homes for the Homeless, Homelessness: The Foster Care
Connection [Online]. Available:
Mech, E. (1994). Foster youth in transition: Research
perspectives on preparation for independent living.
Child Welfare, LXXIII (5), 603-623.
National Coalition for the Homeless (1998). Breaking the
Foster Care-Homelessness connection [On-line].
Nixon, R. (1999) Improving economic opportunity for youth
formerly served by the foster care system: Identifying
the support network’s strengths and needs: Final
Report. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of
Petit, M.R., Curtis, P.A., Woodruff, K., Arnold, L.,
Feagans, L., & Ang. J. (1999). Child abuse and neglect:
A look at the states. Washington, DC: Child Welfare
League of America.
Schor, E.L. (1992). The foster care system and the health
status of foster children. Pediatrics 69 (5), 521-528.
Schor, E.L. (1988). Foster care. The Pediatric Clinics of
North America 35 (6), 1241-1252.
Simms, M.D. (1998). The foster care clinic: A community
program to identify treatment needs of children in
foster care. Journal of Development and Behavioral
Pediatrics 10, 121-128.
Stone, H. (1987). Ready, set, go: An agency guide to
independent living. Washington, DC: Child Welfare
League of America.
THOMAS.(2000). Bill Summary and Status for the 106th
Congress. [Online]. Available: http://thomas.loc.gov
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