Housing for Young Adults in Extended Federally Funded Foster Care

Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Four Young Adults Sitting Together in a Booth

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  • Published: 2018


Research Questions

  1. How do child welfare agencies approach housing for young adults in EFFC?
  2. How and by whom are decisions made about housing for young adults in EFFC?
  3. What types of housing are available for young adults in EFFC, and what factors limit housing options?

For many decades, child welfare agencies, with few exceptions, only served children. State responsibility for the safety and well-being of youth in foster care ended at age 18 (or 19, at the state’s discretion, in the case of youth who were completing high school). In 2008, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act amended Title IV-E of the Social Security Act by giving states the option to extend the age of eligibility for federally funded foster care to 21. In doing so, the federal government provided states with a financial incentive to allow young people to remain in foster care until their 21st birthday. For states to qualify for Title IV-E reimbursement, young adults in extended federal foster care (EFFC) must meet at least one of five eligibility requirements 1) completing high school or a program leading to an equivalent credential 2) enrolled in postsecondary or vocational education 3) participating in a program or activity designed to promote or remove barriers to employment 4) employed at least 80 hours per month, or 5) incapable of doing any of the above because of a medical condition. States have considerable latitude with respect to how they define each of these criteria and how they verify if young adults are meeting at least one.


Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have extended or are in the process of extending federally funded foster care to age 21. Because some of these states have large foster care populations, a majority of youth in foster care nationally can now remain in care until their 21st birthday. Child welfare agencies are now increasingly responsible for the care and supervision of young adults whose developmental needs are qualitatively different from those of young adults under age 18. That responsibility includes providing young adults in foster care with safe, stable, and developmentally appropriate places to live.

This brief summarizes information gathered from a purposive sample of officials from public child welfare agencies in states that have extended federally funded foster care to age 21 and from a group of stakeholders who attended a convening on the topic. The purpose of the brief is to begin to address the gaps in our knowledge of best practices for housing young adults in extended care, of the housing options currently available to those young adults, and of how those options vary across and within states.

Key Findings and Highlights

State child welfare agency staff identified three primary types of housing for young adults in EFFC: family based settings, group or congregate settings, and supervised independent living settings. However, not every housing option is available to every young adult or in every jurisdiction. System-level as well as youth-level factors can limit the availability of housing options.

System-Level Factors Limiting Housing Options Available to Young Adults in EFFC

  • Housing program is at capacity.
  • Housing program is not eligible to serve young adults in extended foster care.
  • Housing program does not receive child welfare funding.
  • Young adult does not meet the program's eligibility criteria.
  • Caseworker did not inform youth about or refer young adults to the program.
  • Young adult was referred to but not selected by the program.
  • Licensing or other regulations limit potential housing options.

Youth-Level Factors Limiting Housing Options Available to Young Adults in EFFC

  • Housing is not in a desirable location.
  • Housing does not meet the needs of young adults.
  • Housing will not help young adults meet their current goals.
  • Young adults perceive rules as too restrictive.
  • Housing options are not perceived as attractive.


Researchers from the Urban Institute and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago looked at the nine states with the largest number of young adults in EFFC: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Team members contacted each state’s public child welfare agency, identified the people best positioned to talk about the housing options available to young adults in EFFC, and invited them to participate in telephone conversations about those options. Officials from eight of the nine states participated in these conversations. The information gathered through these conversations was summarized and used to generate questions that were the focus of a convening held in Washington, DC, in November 2016.


Dworsky, Amy & Dasgupta, Denali., (2018). Housing for Young Adults in Extended Federally Funded Foster Care. OPRE Report #2018-66, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.


Extended federal foster care (EFFC) is a continuation of all components of foster care that young people experience prior to reaching the age of 18, including independent living services, foster care room and board, case and permanency planning, and judicial oversight.
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