Youth transitioning out of foster care and into adulthood need many supports to navigate the challenges they face. Over the past three decades, federal child welfare policy has significantly increased the availability of those supports. In 1999, the Foster Care Independence Act amended Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to create the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (the Chafee Program). This amendment doubled the maximum amount of funds potentially available to states for independent living services and gave states greater discretion over how they use those funds. More recently, a provision in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 gave states an option to extend eligibility for Title IV-E foster care for youth beyond age 18 until age 21. In states that have taken this option, young people can receive an additional three years of foster care support to prepare for the transition into adulthood.
ACF contracted with the Urban Institute and its partner Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to plan for the next generation of evaluation activities funded by the Chafee Program. As part of that planning process, the team reviewed current research on youth in foster care, developed a conceptual framework, created a typology of existing independent living programs, and held meetings with researchers, federal staff and program experts. This overview brief presents a conceptual framework, the program typology, and central conclusions from our planning efforts for an agenda for future evaluations.