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Extending Foster Care to Age 21:
Measuring Costs and Benefits in Washington State

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Mason Burley, Stephanie Lee - January 2010

In 2006, the Washington State Legislature passed 2SHB 2002, which allowed up to 50 youth (per year) to remain in a foster care placement until they reached age 21. In order to be eligible for an extended foster care placement, youth in the Foster Care to 21 program must be enrolled in a post-high school academic or vocational program.

The 2006 Legislature also directed the Institute to “conduct a study measuring outcomes for foster youth who have received continued support,” and “include measurements of any savings to the state and local government.” This evaluation compares outcomes for Foster Care to 21 participants with a matched group of foster youth who completed high school before the program was available. Based on this analysis, we found that youth enrolled in Foster Care to 21 attended college for a longer period in the first two years after high school graduation, received food stamps for fewer total months, and were less likely to be arrested for a misdemeanor or felony crime. Positive outcomes associated with Foster Care to 21 saved taxpayers $1.35 for every dollar spent on the program, according to our estimates.

Report ID: 10-01-3902
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