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Housing is one of the biggest challenges that former foster youth face in their transition to adulthood. 25,000- 30,000 children age out of foster care every year which puts these youths at risk of homelessness and other problems that housing instability causes such as unemployment, stress, mental health issues, etc (Dworsky, Dion, Kleinman, & Kauff, 2017). FUP promotes housing stability for transition age youth through housing vouchers. Although housing vouchers are a great resource with strengths and good intentions the program has its weaknesses. The goal of FUP in regards to youth is to provide an opportunity for youth to become independent by offering housing vouchers; this goal is not always met.
A few of the problems with FUP is that the demand for housing vouchers is greater than the supply of housing vouchers available, housing vouchers are not always given to youth, and housing vouchers for youth are time-limited. Currently there are more youths in need of housing assistance than the availability of housing vouchers. In 2012, only 14% of housing vouchers were given to youth. Transition aged youth are do not always receive housing vouchers because families are seen as a priority through the program, which means that people do not benefit from this program equally. Local Public Housing Agencies (PHA’s) and Public Child Welfare Agencies (PCWA’s) are in charge of awarding these vouchers (Dworsky, Dion, Kleinman, & Kauff, 2017).
How it works
Another significant problem is that the housing vouchers to transition aged youth is a resource that is time-limited. Housing vouchers offered to youth are only offered for 18 months. The time span of 18 months is not enough time for an individual to become self-sufficient. 18 months is not enough time to find reliable employment. An individual usually looks towards post secondary education after graduation and 18 months does not allow time for transition-aged youth to have support while they finish their two-year degree. This discourages transition age youth from attempting to attend post-secondary education. It is also difficult to find places that will rent to youths for a period of 18 months especially since most landlords leases last a year if not longer. Youths have 60 days to “lease up” and find a place that accepts their voucher (Dworsky).
A few of the strengths of FUP has is that some housing agencies are required to offer additional services to recipients of housing vouchers, most youths with vouchers are able to find housing, and the youths that find housing end up staying in the first unit during their duration of their housing voucher. PCWA’s are required to offer services to the recipients of housing vouchers such as connecting clients to mental and physical health resources, teaching youth money management skills, and performing needs assessments. Other services may include: introduction to basic life skills, nutrition, housekeeping, and employment and educational counseling. These services are not always funded adequately but are vital to transition age youth.
PHA’s are encouraged to offer services to the recipients of housing vouchers but are not required to. Some of these resources include assistance in housing search, pre-move and post-move counseling, and cash assistance. More than 85% of PCWA’s and PCA’s assist youth in finding housing when they are accepted for a housing voucher (Dworsky, Dion, Kleinman, & Kauff, 2017). Almost half of the individuals with housing vouchers stay at their first unit of choice for the duration of their voucher, this means that they are able to find housing stability for that period of time. In summary the program attempts to improve the quality of life for it’s target population, transition age youth, but many are not able to access the resource and benefits of the program.
The change from living in foster care to living independently is abrupt for transition age youth. This is because many transition age youth have to face the challenges of adulthood with out the guidance of a parent, guardian, or trusted adult. Transition age youth have a lack of financial and emotional support that may lead them to homelessness, physical, and mental health problems, unemployment, and more. PHA’s and PCWA’s should set aside housing vouchers specifically for youth, which would increase the amount of housing voucher availability (Dworsky, Dion, Kleinman, & Kauff, 2017). The time limit on housing vouchers for youth should also be increased to allow more time for youth to have independence. Two studies had a few suggestions for FUP.
The first study was conducted from June 2008 to June 2009 that involved 13 groups focused on transition aged youth suggested an increase in group therapies, peer-led services, and community based involvement (Gilmer et. Al 2012). The study conducted involved youth, parents, and service providers, which gave an insight on what can be improved in the FUP by individuals involved. The second study showed the importance of preventative services such as mental health services to be provided to youth before they leave foster care. This resource can help ease the transition for youth with mental health issues by providing resources such as therapy. Intervention and preventative services are valuable resources for transition aged youth because most transition-aged youth have faced some form of trauma.
In conclusion, even if transition age youth do not receive housing vouchers they should still have access to other services that promote independence. Transition age youth should have access to employment assistance, educational assistance, and counseling and therapy services. Creating a program that offers these benefits or adding these benefits to FUP has the ability to ease the transition into adulthood and can increase opportunities for transition age youth. Some effects would be: reducing the amount of homelessness, reducing rates of unemployment, increasing the amount of post secondary educational attainment, and overall improve the lives of these individuals. These additional resources will allow transition aged youth to feel supported, increase financial security, help improve mental health, and allow for successful social assimilation (Burke-Miller, Razzano, Grey, Blyler, & Cook, 2012).
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