The Department of Human Services (DHS) announced that older Pennsylvania youth exiting the foster-care system will now be eligible for aftercare services until age 23 – a policy change that will offer myriad supportive services to a particularly vulnerable population of youth as they transition to adulthood.
Previously, youth became ineligible for aftercare services on their 21st birthday.
DHS convened a workgroup to study the possibility of extending aftercare services to age 23 for former foster youth after the federal Family First Prevention Services Act gave states the option of doing so. After studying the issue in collaboration with stakeholders, DHS has opted into this provision effective July 1.
In Pennsylvania, child welfare is a county-administered and state-supervised system. Counties provide aftercare services that meet the needs of the youth who exit foster care on or after their 14th birthday – and now until age 23 – that can include: needs assessment/case planning, life skills training, prevention services, education, support services, employment, location of housing, room and board, retreats and camps, indirect services, and program administration. Some services require youth to meet other eligibility criteria.
In addition, DHS has extended eligibility for the Chafee Education and Training Voucher program – known as Education and Training Grants (ETG) in Pennsylvania – to youth up until their 26th birthday. This program provides eligible youth financial support to attend post-secondary education and training classes for up to five years (consecutive or non-consecutive). The previous cutoff age was 23.