Foster Care Innovation: Smoothing Foster Youth’s Transition to Independence with an “Electronic Backpack” of Key Records
We’ve all had the experience of misplacing an insurance card or losing a child’s immunization record. Such documents always seem to go missing right when we need them—say, when a child must enroll in school or when we require medical care.
Hard copies of important documents are easy to lose track of, particularly when life circumstances require a move or change in living arrangements, as is often the case for youth in foster care. These frequent disruptions lead to fragmented health care and disorganized, incomplete, and outdated life records. Safe, online storage of critical personal documents would be especially helpful to older foster youth when they are transitioning out of foster care to more independent living arrangements and assuming responsibility for their own needs.
Equipping these transition age youth with an “electronic backpack” for critical documents could help ensure that they have their own records and personal histories available when they seek employment, housing, and educational opportunities as young adults. Such a tool could also free up time for busy caseworkers who would be able to spend less time chasing down missing documents and records and more time offering meaningful support.
A new issue brief from The Children’s Partnership describes how counties in California can integrate this type of tool into existing processes and requirements under AB 12—a law that extends welfare benefits and services to foster youth in California up to the age of 21 if they choose to remain in the program past their 18th birthday. Agencies interested in empowering youth with their own critical life documents can follow the roadmap included in the brief, which identifies optimal opportunities for integrating an electronic record system into the emancipation process.
This innovative and streamlined approach will help ensure that youth entering extended foster care are empowered with the critical life documents and records they need to thrive as independent adults.