Social, Emotional and Physical Well-Being for Youth in Transition from the Foster Care System

On December 18, 2013, the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) examined the importance of social-emotional support for youth aging out of the foster care system in a Webinar titled, “Social, Emotional and Physical Well-Being for Youth in Transition from the Foster Care System.” The Webinar highlighted the report by the Youth Transition Funders Group (YTFG), “Connected by 25,” and focused on program and policy supports that reinforce the social-emotional health of youth in the foster care system as they transition into college, careers, and beyond.

Speakers included Barbara Hanson Langford, Foster Care Work Group Consultant for YTFG; B. Wayne Sims, President and Chief Executive Officer at KVC Health Systems; and Mary Rachael Lee, National Transitional Living Coordinator at Youth Villages.  The Webinar was moderated by Erin Russ, Program Associate at AYPF.

Over 400,000 children and youth are currently in the foster care system, and approximately 26,000 will transition out of care every year.[1]  Once youth leave foster care they quickly lose access to support services and systems that could benefit them in adulthood. Each of the speakers provided a different perspective and examples on how their work is positively influencing youth aging out of the foster care system through research, policies, and program initiatives.

First, Barbara Langford described her work as part of the Foster Care Work Group within the national network of grant makers. YTFG believes that there are six areas of development that help older youth in foster care to become successful adults: 

  • Intellectual Potential. Cognitive functioning to maximize their intellectual ability and functioning.
  • Social Development. Social support and emotional wellness to cultivate a strong and resilient self-identity; to develop supportive and nurturing relationships, and to feel hopeful about life and the future.
  • Mental Wellness. Ability to manage their mental health and wellness.
  • Physical Health. Ability to maximize their physical heath, strength, and functioning.
  • Economic Success. Safety to ensure they are physically and psychologically safe and free from abuse and neglect, and permanency to belong to a family for a lifetime.
  • Safety and Permanency: Achieve educational success to their fullest potential, including secondary and post-secondary completion; obtain and retain steady employment that provides both a living wage and a career path; and obtain safe, stable and affordable housing.

Langford only focused on the first four areas saying that in order to achieve economic success and safety and permanency, youth need to have social and emotional stability.  This is the main focus of the YTFG “Connected by 25” report which centers on the idea of social-emotional well-being. 

B. Wayne Sims introduced KVC Health Systems as the parent organization of a number of subsidiary non-profit organizations across Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and West Virginia.  Sims presented research from the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study that found that youth who experience adverse childhood experiences are more likely to face severe adverse challenges in adulthood.  Using the Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) approach, KVC in Kansas has developed a transitional youth program that includes education support programs before youth age out of care; tuition waivers to any Kansas university, community college, or technical school; a medical card covering all medical, dental, and vision; start-up funds for independent living; car maintenance funds; and most importantly case management support.  Additionally, Kansas Senate Bill 23 provides support for youth in foster care who often move across school systems by providing an outline of core high school classes that youth in foster care can complete to meet statewide graduation requirements. 

Mary Lee concluded the Webinar with an overview of the Youth Villages Transitional Living (TL) Program. Since its inception in 1999, Transitional Living has served over 6,300 youth in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. With a focus on permanency, education, employment, housing, independent living skills, and youth involvement Transitional Living seeks to provide youth with a well-rounded support system. Each youth in the Transitional Living Program has a highly trained TL Specialist that meets with him or her at least once a week and is on call for assistance 24/7. To ensure that their program is effective, Transitional Living evaluates itself through client satisfaction surveys that are administered every two months while youth are in the program, and at six, 12, and 24 months once youth have left the program.  The surveys ask the youth about their maintenance of stable housing, educational attainment, employment, criminal and legal involvement, social support, and basic life skills.  Lee then presented a series of graphs, some that can be found in TL’s 10 Year Report, which reflected the effectiveness of their program. 

To access full Webinar content and information click here.

Garet Fryar is a Research/Policy Intern at the American Youth Policy Forum.

[1] Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, “Aging Out”. Accessed


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