$30 Million Proposed to Assist Older Foster and Homeless Youth


A California-based policy shop is asking for a $30 million expansion of the state’s transitional housing program to serve homeless youth and older foster youth with extra challenges.

The John Burton Foundation sent a letter to California Assembly Budget Subcommittee Chair Tony Thurmond asking for an increase to the Transitional Housing Program-Plus (THPP), a model designed to house and build the life skills of youth who age out of foster care.

The Burton Foundation’s new plan would infuse $30 million into THPP to do two things:

Increase the ability of counties to handle what will surely be a surge in 21-year-olds seeking THPP assistance.
Expand THPP to serve homeless youth even if they have never been dependents of the court.
California recently permitted foster youth to remain in care until age 21, a move connected to the passing of federal legislation that guaranteed support to states for such an expansion.

That has nearly cut in half the number of 18-year-olds exiting care without a permanent living arrangement in place. But in 2015, over 2,200 foster youths are expected to “age out” at 21 years-old.

“Most of them will transition to adulthood successfully, and the extra three years will have helped,” said John Burton Foundation Policy Director Amy Lemley, on a conference call.

The organization estimates that about 600 of the youths aging out at 21 are pregnant or parenting, or have a significant physical or mental health disability.

“They are going to have a much longer transition to economic security,” Lemley said.

THPP is available for up to 24 months to former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 24. When the state expanded foster care to 21, an in-care version of THPP was created.

The in-care iteration, available only up to age 21, has slowly grown. At the same time, the number of 21-plus participants has more than tripled since 2010.

“In our last annual report we saw that 65 percent [of THP-Plus participants] were between the ages of 21 and 24,” said Cecilia Tran, policy associate for John Burton Foundation, in an e-mail to The Chronicle. “In 2010…it was just 19 percent.”

Counties would have to opt into the expansion, and submit a plan that detailed the expected number of youth that would be served by THPP.

Half of the proposed $30 million is slated for serving homeless youth without regard to any pending status with the dependency court.

“We have come a long way in helping older foster youth, but we have not made the same strides with homeless youths,” Lemley said. “In our discussion with providers, we heard loud and clear that many are serving this population already but are doing it with private dollars and not at an adequate level.”

Approximately 50,000 youths between ages 18 and 24 experience homelessness each year in California, according to Burton’s letter to Assemblyman Thurmond. “Many of these youth ran away or were kicked out of their homes as minors due to abuse and neglect, before they could be identified by the child protective system.”

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