Juvenile Law Center

Child Welfare and Foster Care|Extended Care and Reentry (Foster Care)|Fostering Connections

Extended Care and Re-Entry

Every year, more than 23,000 youth age out of foster care without finding permanency or being placed with a family. These youth face extremely poor adult outcomes such as homelessness, reliance on public assistance, and incarceration.

Research shows that even the most privileged youth face challenges to making a successful transition to adulthood: On average, most young people do not achieve independence until age 26, and they rely on a significant amount of financial and moral support from their families to get there. By contrast, youth aging out of the child welfare system were traditionally expected to be independent at age 18.


Re-entering foster care in Pennsylvania.

Watch our vidoes on Pennsylvania's law on extending and re-entering foster care:

Beginning in 2008, the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act encouraged states   to extend foster care to youth until age 21 in exchange for federal funding to help underwrite this change. To date, about one-half the states have enacted laws or policies to extend foster care past age 18. 

Juvenile Law Center works to ensure that all youth who have been involved in the foster care or delinquency systems have support past age 18 that mirrors what other children receive. The support and care provided to young people between ages 18 and 21 must be age-appropriate and reflect that they are legally adults. Support must be individualized and allow young people to make and learn from mistakes, including permitting youth to re-enter care   if they realize they cannot yet stand on their own. 

While providing extended care should be the standard, states must still zealously pursue permanency for teens   and young adults. Having family and supportive adults is one of the key predictors of a successful transition to adulthood. Juvenile Law Center works to increase the chances that all youth in foster care have legal and relationship permanency and that the safety net of extended care and re-entry is available in the event that permanency is not achieved. 

To improve outcomes for older youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems who have not achieved permanency, Juvenile Law Center supports policies that ensure that:

  • all youth in foster care have the opportunity for extended support and services that are high-quality, trauma-informed, and age-appropriate, including the opportunity to re-enter care;
  • all youth in the delinquency system have the opportunity for extended supports and services for making a successful transition to adulthood without requiring extended juvenile justice jurisdiction;
  • efforts are made to provide youth legal and relationship permanency until they leave the child-serving systems; and
  • youth and young adults involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have a voice in developing extended care policies. 

More Resources:


Last updated: 8/3/2015

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