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UPDATE: Renewed Efforts to Support Foster Youth During Pandemic

October 26, 2021

Contact: Mariah Craven | [email protected]

NFYI STATEMENT ON RENEWED EFFORTS TO SUPPORT OLDER FOSTER YOUTH DURING THE PANDEMIC 
H.R. 5661 to be Considered by House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday 

WASHINGTON, DC — The following press statement was issued today by Rebecca Louve Yao, executive director of the National Foster Youth Institute: 

Last month, we faced the devastating realization that thousands of older foster youth and young adults transitioning out of the child welfare system faced uncertain futures as millions of dollars in emergency pandemic assistance funding expired without a renewal from Congress. Today, we have renewed hope thanks to Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), and dozens of other members of Congress who refuse to give up on foster youth. 

The bipartisan Continued State Flexibility to Assist Older Foster Youth Act (H.R.5661) would restore funding to assist older foster youth with pandemic-related challenges. Authored by Reps. Davis and Walorski, it would continue support for young adults who are Chafee-eligible. The Chafee program provides funding to assist foster youth and young adults formerly in foster care with services and financial assistance to promote their transition to adulthood.  

Each year, about 20,000 young people age out of foster care, often with no support system, savings, or housing. A challenge in normal times, the transition period became especially fraught during the pandemic. A temporary moratorium on aging out of care offered some relief. So did the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act, which was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The legislation provided states with $400 million to aid older foster youth and transition age youth. However, the funding expired on September 30, 2021, before some states had an opportunity to distribute all of the money. 

The new legislation proposed by Congressmembers Walorski and Davis would restore some of those expired benefits for another year to help with housing, continuing and higher education, and programs focused on helping youth gain independence. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, members of the National Foster Youth Institute have been outspoken advocates for themselves and their peers, calling on local, federal, and school officials to be mindful of foster youth’s unique needs and challenges as policies were created to help Americans through this global health emergency. At a series of virtual town halls hosted by NFYI, youth shared with members of the US House and Senate the dire circumstances they were seeing and experiencing in their communities. 

This town hall series highlighting first-hand experience led to a renewed push to guarantee medical coverage for former foster youth through the Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act, which was named after a former foster youth who was an outspoken advocate for change until he passed away from COVID-19. The town halls also helped shape the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act 

At a follow-up event with NFYI members, Rep. Davis told them: “I applaud all of the foster youth who used your voices to tell policymakers what you needed. You should be proud, because through your advocacy we secured $400 million for older youth via Chafee support. This was a big win to meet the tremendous need experienced by current and former foster youth.” 

We are grateful to the dozens of Members of Congress and administration officials who listened to foster youth voices during the pandemic. The co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth have been particularly helpful in our efforts to help children and young adults survive the pandemic. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) have all been collaborative partners in efforts to meet the unique needs of this extremely vulnerable population and have welcomed real stories and feedback from current and former foster youth. Effective change in the child welfare system begins when those with lived experience have a seat at the table. For more information on our efforts to secure emergency pandemic assistance for current/former foster youth, please see this essay written by NFYI members. 

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The National Foster Youth Institute envisions a nation where all children are raised in safe and loving families and where the child welfare system serves as a beacon of hope for families in need.  

We aim to transform the child welfare system by building a national grassroots movement led by foster youth and their families. Truly transformative foster care reform will not come to fruition unless the individuals who have personal experience are leading the effort to develop and design needed policy change and programs. 

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