Cash accounts can help youth aging out of foster care succeed
June 1, 2021
PHOENIX – Tens of thousands of American children age out of foster care each year with little more than the clothes on their backs. These orphaned teens disproportionately end up trafficked, incarcerated, and homeless.
Policymakers can help these teens succeed by opening and funding flexible bank accounts, according to a new idea brief released by Gen Justice and the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity.
For decades, federal and state lawmakers have tried to improve outcomes for these teens. Most reforms have focused on extending foster care to age 21, providing housing assistance, and offering education and job training benefits.
Gen Justice and FREOPP recommend a new approach: fostering independence accounts.
“Like my own college-aged sons, foster teens need direct cash assistance. These funds could be used to pay rent, buy groceries and gas, or purchase something as simple as a cell phone,” declared Tim Keller, Gen Justice executive vice-president and legal director.
The accounts could be funded and overseen by the state government to ensure that tax dollars are used appropriately and to help former foster youth stay on the radar of child welfare agencies. And Congress could permit states to use existing federal dollars to reimburse the costs associated with the accounts.
“Former foster youth entering adulthood face obstacles that few of us can imagine,” explained FREOPP visiting fellow Dan Lips. “Policymakers should provide direct financial assistance with proper oversight to ensure that former foster youth have an opportunity to succeed in life.”
The new report details past bipartisan reform initiatives aimed to help youth aging out of foster care and recommends federal and state reforms to establish fostering independence accounts. State lawmakers can establish fostering independence accounts to complement the existing child welfare system and government benefits for older foster youth and those aging out of care. Congress can help states establish fostering independence accounts by allowing federal funds provided to states under the Social Security Act to be used to support direct financial payments to youth aging out of foster care.
A copy of the new Gen Justice and FREOPP report is available here.
ABOUT GEN JUSTICE
Gen Justice is an award-winning charitable organization celebrating its third year working to mend the broken child protection system through nonpartisan policy changes and a pro bono Children’s Law Clinic. Online: www.genjustice.org