Just 35% of Florida’s older foster youth got federal help moving on. A new bill could change that

This chart from the Annie E. Casey Foundation's report "Fostering Youth Transitions 2023" shows how foster youth in the U.S. and Florida entered the system.
Annie E. Casey Foundation This chart from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report “Fostering Youth Transitions 2023” shows how foster youth in the U.S. and Florida entered the system.

A bill recently passed in the Florida Legislature could help address a key shortfall highlighted in a new national report about foster youth ages 14 to 21.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released a data brief this week titled “Fostering Youth Transitions 2023.” it focuses on those older foster youth, especially as they prepare to transitioned to living on their own.

The data goes up through 2021 and compares the youth and the services they have received over the previous 15 years for the U.S. and individual states. It notes that overall there are fewer of these youth in foster care.

The report finds that in the U.S. fewer than half of those foster youth were receiving any federally funded transition services between 2013 and 2021. In Florida, only 35% got that help.

“The report does, I think, highlight that Florida is on the right path serving youth transitioning to adulthood,” said Geori Berman Seldine, executive director of Florida’s Children First, a child advocacy organization. “But it does highlight that there needs to be some improvement in policy reform.”

Senate Bill 272, which passed the Legislature last week and is awaiting the governor’s signature, is part of that reform.

“So this law will require that young people learn about the rescoures and laws that protect foster youth every six months in an age-appropriate way,” Seldine said.

She said Florida Youth SHINE, an advocacy organization of youth in or recently out of Florida’s child welfare system, has pushed for that legislation since 2018.

The Annie E. Casey report also shows that, after foster care, a greater percentage of Florida’s 21-year-olds were getting jobs than they were in 2015. But fewer were getting an education past high school and fewer had stable housing.

Seldine said housing is a major challenge now for foster youth leaving the system and that the next data brief will likely show that.

In responding to the report, the Department of Children and Families said in a statement that its independent living programs offer youth “support and services on their journey into adulthood.”

DCF also has a newly established Office of Continuing Care to assist former foster youth through age 26.

“Young adults who decide they are ready to venture out on their own can decide at any time to reenter and request support through the Hope Line at 850-300-HOPE,” the statement says.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation emphasizes that nearly half — 48% — of the youth in its report entered foster care due to neglect, up from 29% in 2006. It reports that America’s child welfare systems find families for fewer than half of teens and young adults in foster care.

The foundation argues for addressing the underlying issues of poverty and focusing on families and communities — as a way to counter that neglect.

It also urges strengthening child welfare agencies and improving the services that young adults receive as they leave the system, including “stable housing, postsecondary education and employment.”
Copyright 2023 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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