Los Angeles, CA; Atlanta, GA; New York, NY; and Washington, DC (August 18, 2022)—The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law on August 16th, makes important investments in addressing climate change and improving health care access and affordability for millions across the country. Although it is a good start, there is so much more that is needed for youth and families, especially for the young adults in or transitioning out of foster care. Youth aging out of foster care are important members of every community across the country and must be supported as they pursue their goals. Unfortunately, the IRA left out notable investments that are crucial for supporting these young adults and ensuring that they have the supports needed to meet their goals, access healthy food and stable housing, and sustain economic security through adulthood.
As a result of the way our child welfare system has been designed and historic and current systemic racism, youth aging out of foster care, who are disproportionality youth of color, face incredible barriers to economic stability and success compared to their peers, including higher rates of housing instability and unemployment. Recognizing these systemic issues and the compounding impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth transitioning out of care, previous federal relief bills specifically addressed and expanded supports for these young adults including in areas of housing, food security, and financial support provided much needed stability and support.
As Aisha Brezial, a CARES Ambassador from Atlanta stated, “While we are glad that the bill has passed and it is a good start, it just isn’t enough for youth in foster care or those of us who are aging out of care.”
Despite the clear need and the data supporting the positive impact of critical policies for these young adults and many others, Congress failed to include them in the IRA. For example, the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit were left out of the bill. These important tax credits help provide economic security to young adults to meet their basic needs, including rent and food. Additionally, investments in new affordable housing and modernized existing public housing that were not included would have promoted housing stability for the more than 1 in 4 youth aging out of care who experience homelessness and the many others who experience housing instability. For some, access to stable housing for their family may have prevented their entry into care in the first place. For those who are parents, capped child care costs and investments in universal preschool would have supported their ability to access high quality and affordable early childhood education for their children. And for all young people aging out of care investments in community college, Medicaid, and paid family and medical leave would have supported them in pursuing their chosen careers paths without having to sacrifice their mental and physical health, child care responsibilities, or other emergent conditions.
Supporting the needs of young adults aging out of care to interdependent adulthood cannot wait. They have too often been left out of the conversation—and because of how racism has shaped policies to lead to young adults of color being historically underserved by systems—there is an explicit need to advance anti-racist policy. The data are clear that the investments through the federal relief bills, which expired in September 2021, had a significant, positive impact on the health, well-being, and economic security of these young adults and parents of color. Continuing these investments through the IRA could have made a significant difference for youth and young adults aging out of foster care—more than 20,000 in 2020 alone. Now is the time to learn from policy investments that have worked and build on the momentum of the IRA to make transformational investments in the stability and economic security of young adults transitioning from foster care. Congress should join the call and fight alongside young adults for policies that will help them achieve their goals.
This statement was developed in partnership between CSSP and CARES: Creating Actionable & Real Solutions with significant contributions from Aisha Brezial, Tiffany Cannon, Jamie Kelley, Andre Konda, Elizabeth Villa.
About CARES. In 2021, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) launched CARES: Creating Actionable & Real Solutions funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Using an actively anti-racist frame, the aim of this work is to drastically change the systemic challenges that youth—specifically older or “transition-age” youth of color—who are or have been involved with the foster care system experience. This work is being co-designed and co-created with three cohorts of Ambassadors—youth with lived experience in the foster care system who have transitioned out of the system located in three key cities: New York, NY; Atlanta, GA; and Los Angeles, CA. By building on the resilience and strengths of these young people, dismantling the structural impediments to their well-being, and identifying meaningful priorities to organize around to best support youth, we intend to both share power with communities and with youth themselves while simultaneously creating a meaningful and sustainable shift in the way young people are viewed and served by the systems with which they interact. Learn more about CARES here: www.CSSP.org/our-work/project/CARES/.
About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. We translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, and support strong and inclusive communities. We advocate with and for all children, youth, and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at www.CSSP.org.