On June 6, Louisiana’s Governor signed legislation to expand that state’s extended foster care program. SB 109 expands the state’s existing extended foster care program to more youth by adopting all of the eligibility categories in the federal Fostering Connections Law of 2008. As the bill’s sponsor Senator Barrow said, “The transition into adulthood isn’t easy for anybody, but just imagine what foster youth have had to endure by the time they reach 18. They continue to need someone in their corner. And that’s what this is about.” Families provide youth significant financial, social, and financial support well into young people’s twenties. Extended foster care provides some of this support to young people who may not have the benefit of family support.
Providing extended foster care is an important first step for states, but making sure the services and supports provided to young people are effective, engaging and developmentally appropriate in the end is the goal. Young people do not want three more years of the same things. They want and need services and systems that provide support and guidance while also having opportunities for choice, learning, and even to fail.
It is very promising that Louisiana has made some very smart investments in transition age youth that bode well for the success of their extended care program. While extended care is meant to provide support as young people transition to adulthood, the goal remains connecting young people with family so they have the lifelong support and love that all youth and adults needs as they grow up.
Young people in extended foster care in Louisiana will work with recruiters from the Dave Thomas Foundation to support them in finding family and building up the connections they have in the community. Louisiana also has the benefit the Quality Parenting Initiative, which will help ensure that there will be a focus on supporting young people by building relationships and support networks in all parts of the system, including extended care. QPI is devoted to building systems and policies that support excellent parenting for youth, and this includes transition age youth. Having this initiative impact the development of the state’s extended care system increases the odds that the focus on building family and permanency will remain a priority.
Ensuring that a focus on family and permanency is part of an extended care program is key. Youth in extended foster care will also have the opportunity to be part of the Youth Villages YVLifeSet Program. This evidence based program is an effective model for serving transition age youth. It is a model that strives to deliver age-appropriate services and supports, meaningfully engages youth, and prioritizes the development of adult living skills as well as the building of relationships and community.