By age 23 or 24, fewer than half of the former foster care youths in the study were working. Close to a quarter had no high school diploma or equivalency degree and only 6 percent had completed a two- or four-year post-secondary degree. Nearly 60 percent of males had been convicted of a crime and 77 percent of females had been pregnant.
This frames how bad the issue is.
The idea is to help youths return to their original families wherever it is possible to do so safely by providing their parents, or in some cases other relatives, with an extensive array of in-home support services. This approach may seem counterintuitive, given that child welfare agencies intervene when courts deem parents unfit to care for their children. However, evidence indicates that intensive in-home services can bring substantial changes in families — and produce more successful outcomes than out-of-home models like foster homes or institutional care.This isn't counter-intuitive to anyone that works in government. Trying to get this through people's heads is one of the key roles my agency plays. Government, and especially the Federal government, knows just how terribly wasteful institutional care is and works hard to try to get public support for these programs. It doesn't work, because the reaction is always we only want to give services to people that really need it. Everyone else should just be more personally responsible and the wouldn't need services.
While this may or may not be true, the result of this attitude is that by the time anyone is in bad enough shape that it's evident they really need it and aren't trying to skim from the public purse, it's already a crisis and institutionalization is usually the only option. Raising eligibility requirements makes this worse. Lowering eligibility requirements so that more people qualify for cheaper service intervention can save money in the long run and has much higher success rates in turning these people into production citizens. This will be costly in the short run however, since it requires temporarily paying for the high number of institutionalized people in the system currently as well as the increased benefits. Since means testing and other forms of eligibility requirements are so popular to save money right now, expect things to move in the opposite direction.
Youth Villages monitors outcomes for every child it serves and allows independent researchers access to its data. The organization reports that, two years after completing its in-home programs, 83 percent of youths served were living successfully in families, 85 percent were in school or had gained a high school or equivalency degree, and 82 percent reported no trouble with the law.