Journal Issue: Children, Families, and Foster Care Volume 14 Number 1 Winter 2004
Large numbers of older children reside in and emancipate from foster care in the United States every year. In 2001 about 30% of the children in foster care were 11 to 15 years old, and another 17% were age 16 or older.1 Older youths in foster care face some of the same challenges as younger children, but often these challenges are intensified. For example, older children may have experienced more extensive disruptions in living situations and schools. Older children also face different concerns as they get closer to aging out of foster care, including establishing a viable relationship with their birth family members. To deal with these challenges, a considerable number of older children need special services while in care and transition services as they emancipate from foster care without having a permanent home. Of the children leaving foster care in 2001, 20% were age 16 and older.2
This article examines the developmental needs and outcomes of older children in foster care. It briefly highlights federal and state policies affecting older children in care and the programs designed to serve them. Finally, it offers several proposed improvements to current policies and programs to help these youths transition successfully from foster care to adulthood.