Ensuring the Effective Implementation of Extended Foster Care in Pennsylvania

Emerging Leader Fellow: Dominique Mikell, 2016-2018

The Problem:

Between 700 and 900 youth age out of Pennsylvania’s foster care system each year without being placed in a family setting, leaving them vulnerable to poor outcomes, such as poverty, victimization, homelessness, and incarceration.  To address this issue, Pennsylvania enacted Act 91 in 2012, allowing youth to remain in foster care after age 18 and to reenter care before age 21 if they leave the system but need assistance later.  However, poor implementation, minimal enforcement and accountability, and lack of public awareness of Act 91 have left the promise of the law unrealized.

The Approach:          

Dominique is working to examine Act 91’s statewide implementation and develop an advocacy plan designed to encourage more youth to take advantage of the law’s expansion of state-funded services.  To do so, Dominique is:

  • Identifying trends in statewide foster care data.
  • Conducting an in-depth review of Philadelphia County data, as well as reviews of additional counties across the state.
  • Surveying stakeholders, conducting focus groups, and scheduling site visits to obtain perspectives on and experiences with Act 91’s implementation.
  • Researching extended foster care, reentry laws, and best practices in other states to inform the evaluation and development of recommendations for improvement.
  • Developing and updating informational materials to equip youth to take advantage of Act 91.

During the second year of the Fellowship, she will:

  • Produce and disseminate a report analyzing Act 91’s implementation and make recommendations for improvement.
  • Develop and implement an advocacy plan with suggested policy reforms and action steps based on recommendations for improvement.

Supporting older foster youth through implementation of ACT 91 and extended foster care remains an ongoing challenge for many states. Dominique’s project will lay the groundwork for the law to be used to its full potential in Pennsylvania and beyond.