This report provides background to Congress on teens and young adults in and exiting from foster care, and the federal support available to them. It begins with a discussion of the characteristics of youth who have had contact with the child welfare system, including those who entered care and those who exited care via “emancipation.”

While many young people have access to emotional and financial support systems throughout their early adult years, older youth in foster care and those who are emancipated from care often lack such security. This can be an obstacle for them in developing independent living skills and building supports that might ease their transition to adulthood. Older foster youth who return to their parents or guardians may continue to experience poor family dynamics or lack supports, and studies have shown that recently emancipated foster youth fare poorly relative to their counterparts in the general population on measures such as education and employment.

The federal government recognizes that older youth in foster care and those who have been emancipated, or aged out, are vulnerable to negative outcomes and may ultimately return to the care of the state as adults through the public welfare, criminal justice, or other systems. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) administers the primary federal programs that are targeted to these youth. These include the federal foster care program and the John H. Chafee Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood program (“Chafee program”), both of which are authorized under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act.