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Why Is Virginia Ranked Nearly Last for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care…

…and what can we do to change the paradigm?

If you’ve seen our recent Facebook post, you know that Virginia has dropped from 48th to 49th out of 50 states ranked for the rate at which youth age out of the foster care system. This means they leave the foster care system and enter adulthood without a permanent family. In response to that post, we wanted to answer some questions related to this ranking.

Youth aging out of foster care is a complex issue with many contributing factors. One potential reason for our poor ranking is that Virginia has a higher percentage of older youth in foster care (21%) than the nation as a whole (16%). Sadly, older youth are adopted at a much lower rate than young children.

Additionally, Virginia is one of only 9 states that is organized as a state-supervised, locally-administered department of social services. The vast majority of states are state-administered social services. The downsides to having a locally administered social services system is that there tend to be lower adoption rates due in part to fewer resources available and less innovation.

The top 5 states for the lowest percentage of youth aging out of foster care are: Wyoming (1%), West Virginia (2%), Indiana (3%), Mississippi (3%), and Washington (3%). The 6 states that have the highest percentage of youth aging out of foster care are New Hampshire (21%), Virginia (19%), Maryland (17%), Massachusetts (15%), Delaware (14%), California (13%) and Kentucky (13%).  The full list can be found here:

It’s important to know that this is an on-going struggle in Virginia. Since at least the year 2000, the highest ranking we have received was 48th. In fact, from 2000-2013, we were ranked 50th. While we climbed to 49th in 2014 and 48th in 2015, we have fallen back down to 49th for 2016 (the latest year for which data is currently available).

In response to this crisis, CHS is jumping into action. We have a policy and research analyst who will focus on advocating for better outcomes for these youth, to include getting adopted before they age out. In addition, at the end of this month, we will be convening a Panel of Experts to take a close look at some policy initiatives that could help Virginia do better. We have an incredible group of both local and national experts who are committed to improving the lives of these youth. You can check back here over the course of the next year for updates on the Panel’s work.

Here’s one thing we know. Virginia needs more families who are willing and able to adopt older youth. That is the best solution. That is why we, as an adoption agency, focus primarily on finding families for teenagers and older youth. How can you help? Do something wonderful. Adopt a teen.

And while we know that not everyone can adopt, everyone can help. We’d encourage you to reach out to our team at CHS and ask how you can support our efforts improve Virginia’s ranking.