Pre-Emancipation Program for Adolescent-Age Youth
In CY 2011, 118 of the 3,732 18-year-olds who aged out of California’s foster care system did so in the City and County of San Francisco. Becoming an adult is a long developmental process and one that, according to neuroscientists and psychologists, even with adequate emotional support and financial resources, is usually not complete until age 25 or 26. However, former foster youth are at a greater disadvantage than their non-foster care peers and are less likely to have acquired the necessary skills, supports and resources to practice and achieve a successful transition to adult independent living.
In the only longitudinal study of outcomes for former foster youth, almost 40 percent of participants had experienced homelessness or “couch-surfed” by age 24. 57% percent experienced PTSD symptoms and over 25% had neither graduated from high school nor completed a GED by age 25 or 26. In addition to homelessness, former foster youth as adults disproportionately experience greater levels of unemployment, incarceration, physical and mental health problems, early pregnancy, and lower levels of educational attainment.
Almost 68% of SFCASA client youth are adolescents (ages 12 and up) and by age 14 most are in need of pre-emancipation services. To address this need, the objectives of SFCASA’s Pre-Emancipation Youth Program include:
- Training volunteers in issues and support strategies specific to pre-emancipation youth and young adults
- Collaborating with local partner agencies (service providers, advocates and consumers) to promote systems integration for effective implementation of AB 12 and better after-care outcomes
- Increasing clients’ access to services for stable housing, education, employment and health care
- Encouraging the development of healthy, viable relationships with supportive adults and promoting the practice of self-advocacy for older adolescents
All SFCASA client youth in this age group receive advocacy and mentoring directed toward helping them to acquire adult living skills (improving educational outcomes to prepare for gainful employment; accessing affordable, stable housing; securing healthcare; identifying appropriate lifelong, permanent connections with family and non-family members).
However, for those teenage clients who are unable to reunify with their parent(s) or enter into adoption or guardianship, a CASA volunteer can play an instrumental and impactful role on the team of social workers, attorneys and other collateral members charged to help the young person prepare for the already challenging developmental transition to adulthood, let alone in the context of foster care. The recession has only multiplied and intensified these difficulties, and increasing costs of educational and vocational training coupled with job scarcity leads to marginal housing, nutritional insecurity and poor access to healthcare.
AB 12 offers new hope for California’s foster youth. Effective January 1, 2012, AB 12 is a new set of laws governing Extended Foster Care (EFC), the extension of services for dependents ages 18 and 19 and expanding to age 20 in CY 2013. (For more information about AB 12, please visit www.after18ca.org)
SFCASA supports this change in the law and is uniquely positioned to assist our clients to achieve a more successful transition to adulthood. Before AB 12, SFCASA’s relationship with the Dependency Court dictated that the official role of the CASA volunteer ends upon the youth’s emancipation from foster care at age 18. However, instead of taking another case from CASA’s waitlist, the volunteer opted to resign and instead continued in an unofficial capacity as an adult mentor or coach helping the now young adult to navigate the significant challenges of life after foster care—often because there was “no one else” to fulfill this critical role. With AB 12 in effect, volunteers may now extend their service in an official capacity as the CASA to a Non-minor Dependent (NMD).
While the CASA volunteer may begin their assignment as the CASA to a fifteen-year-old in need of an advocate and mentor, by the time the foster youth nears the age of majority, the volunteer has established trust and reliability with the teenager nearing early adulthood. Such becomes the basis for the type of supportive relationship necessary for the young adult to practice greater self-advocacy in the interest of positive self-agency.
 Needell, B., Webster, D., Armijo, M., et al. (2012) Child Welfare Services Reports for California. Retrieved 6/22/2012, from University of California at Berkeley Center for Social Services Research website.
 Dworsky, Amy. (2010) “Assessing the Impact of Extending Care beyond Age 18 on Homelessness: Emerging Findings from the Midwest Study” Chapin Hall Center for Children Issue Brief (University of Chicago), 3.
 Courtney, Mark E., Dworsky, Amy, et al. (2011) “Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth” Chapin Hall Center for Children Issue Brief (University of Chicago), 56 and 9.
 Retrieved 6/22/2012 from SFCASA Tracker Database.
 To learn more about the legal framework of foster care and policy recommendations for the expansion of extended foster care in other states, see Melinda Atkinson. “Aging Out of Foster Care: Towards a Universal Safety Net for Former Foster Care Youth,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 43: 183-212 (2008). http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/crcl/vol43_1/183-212.pdf