December 2016

The Time to Grow: Meeting the Needs of Connecticut Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Nicole Updegrove and Lauren Ruth, Ph.D.

Children do best when they live in stable, supportive families. DCF has made great improvements in keeping families intact and in placing children with relatives, but in many cases DCF is unable to achieve reunification, adoption, or a transfer of guardianship. When this happens, children ultimately “age out” of state care as legal adults without the guidance or financial supports that families provide. Over the last five years, 1,374 foster youth in Connecticut aged out of DCF care into adulthood, often entirely alone.

This report provides an overview on the transition out of state care for young adults in Connecticut. The main findings are:

  • Connecticut offers youth who stay in care multiple pathways toward success, however, many youth struggle to meet DCF expectations to stay in care. In 2016, 276 youth aged 18 to 23 were discharged from care; 23% of those discharges were due to failure to meet DCF expectations.
  • In total, 21% of all foster youth who aged out last year left without a high school diploma. 57% left without a job. At least 46% were living in unstable housing situations. 13% were already pregnant or parenting. Only 11% had achieved an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. In Connecticut’s job market, few of them can expect to earn a living wage.
  • The result is that youth who grow up in state care are ill-prepared to navigate adulthood alone at 18, and many continue to experience hardship throughout their lives. At least 18% required intensive developmental or mental health services upon leaving.
  • Follow-up of an earlier cohort of youth who had aged out found that at least 50% were relying on public assistance for food, housing, or cash welfare payments at age 21. Almost 30% had been homeless in the last two years, and almost the same number had been incarcerated.
  • To avoid the need for costly state services for adults, the state should better prepare foster youth for self-sufficiency while they are young.
Issue Area:
Child Welfare