HHS Releases Guidance to Help Prevent Homelessness for Youth Who Have Transitioned Out of Foster Care
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), released new guidance to grant recipients regarding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program. The FYI program is a dedicated resource that provides rental assistance and supportive services to young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who have left or are transitioning out of foster care, who are experiencing homelessness, or are at risk of experiencing homelessness. This important guidance, developed in partnership with HUD, will help ensure eligible young adults gain access to these resources.
Housing stability is essential for achieving self-sufficiency and promoting health and well-being, particularly during the transition to adulthood. Approximately 20,000 youth exit foster care annually, typically between the ages of 18 and 21, and these young people face greater obstacles to accessing and maintaining housing and as a result experience higher rates of homelessness and housing instability compared to the general population. And young people may exit foster care into a stable setting but then later experience homelessness or housing stability. That is why the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal establishes a housing voucher program for all youth aging out of foster care annually.
To access the FYI program, a young adult must be referred by the public child welfare agency (PCWA) to the local public housing authority (PHA). Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) grant recipients are uniquely positioned to develop new partnerships and strengthen existing partnerships with their local PCWA to identify and connect with young adults who may be eligible for resources but are not currently utilizing them. Building off the already established collaboration between PCWAs and PHAs around the FYI program, this guidance provides RHY grant program recipients with information about the FYI program and ways in which grant recipients can partner with child welfare agencies to support young adults who may be receiving RHY services and are also eligible for the FYI program.
“Every person in this country deserves a safe place to call home – especially young and vulnerable youth who are transitioning from foster care to independent living. Ensuring that affordable housing, and other critical services, are available is a big step in the right direction," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, who helped to paint and prepare a drop-in center for homeless youth as part of a service project on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday. “Preventing and ending homelessness requires a collective effort to understand and address its root causes such as housing affordability, substance use disorder, and mental health.The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ending youth homelessness, and we will continue to make it easier to access resources needed to change lives.”
“ACF believes that every young person deserves the dignity and security of stable housing, and this is especially true for youth transitioning from the foster care system,” said ACF Acting Assistant Secretary Jeff Hild. “This guidance equips communities with critical knowledge and tools and will enhance partnerships to address the complex and unique needs of young people at risk of or who are experiencing homelessness.”
The FYI program is an important tool communities have to ensure housing stability for youth who have been in or are aging out of foster care. RHY grant recipients are well-positioned to support young adults in both preparing for and addressing overall well-being through the referral process. RHY grant recipients offer services designed to stabilize young adults, including assisting young adults in acquiring identification cards or completing applications and referrals for additional support services they may need when using a voucher and living in an apartment.
“ACF is committed to a future in which all our nation’s youth and young adults can thrive and achieve safety, stability, and well-being,” said ACF Associate Commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau Kimberly A. Waller. “We hope this information memorandum gives RHY grant recipients and other youth-serving organizations the resources and guidance needed to ensure young adults experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness and who have previously been in foster care or are aging out of foster care have access to all the important services and supports available to them.”
Youth who have aged out of the foster care system are at a particularly high risk of becoming homeless. Studies have found that nearly one-third of youth experiencing homelessness have had experiences with foster care, 22 percent of youth in foster care experienced homelessness at least one night within the first year after they left the foster care system, and five percent had experienced homelessness for the first time within a week after leaving foster care. This guidance encourages both RHY grant recipients and child welfare agencies to work together to ensure this vital resource is available and accessible to eligible youth in order to prevent and end youth homelessness.
“ACF prioritizes supporting young people who are transitioning from foster care and stepping into their adult lives. We believe strongly that young people who are leaving foster care and the agencies that support them must be equipped with the resources, opportunities and connections to allow them to pursue their goals and dreams. Youth have named safe and stable housing as a top priority and necessity that enables them to move forward in their lives. This information memorandum will provide child welfare agencies, RHY grant recipients, and others who support young people with another tool to help end youth homelessness,” said ACF Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau Aysha E. Schomburg.
The information memorandum is available https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/main/ACYF-IM-23-01 Leveraging HUDs Foster Youth to Independence Program.pdf