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Between 700 and 900 youth age out of Pennsylvania’s foster care system each year without being placed in a family setting, which can leave young people vulnerable to 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, the promise of Act 91 has largely been underutilized and unrealized.
Through her Emerging Leader Fellowship, Dominique Mikell worked with Juvenile Law Center to research the implementation of Act 91. Her findings will drive the development and dissemination of policy and practice strategies aimed at encouraging more youth involved with the child welfare system to continue to benefit from state-funded services until they turn 21.
This Emerging Leader Fellowship enabled Dominique to:
- Design a comprehensive research project on Act 91’s implementation, including a state-level analysis of trends for youth aging out of care and an in-depth review of the statute’s implementation in three counties.
- Develop recommendations for local and state child welfare agencies to help older youth re-enter foster care. Dominique led the Foster Care Work Group for the City’s 100 Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness. The group’s recommendations to improve foster care resumption after youth leave care are under review by DHS.
- Disseminate her findings to strengthen extended foster care in Pennsylvania and to share PA’s lessons with other states working to enact similar legislation or improve its implementation.