I am quoted in this piece about aging-out youth, which is overall quite well done. The author and I had some interesting conversations, and she seems to have a good handle overall on social justice constructs.
My approach to this problem, which the author alluded to in quoting me but which wouldn't really be a relevant focus for a food policy publication, would of course be that no youth should be aging out of foster care. Research shows that most youth in care do not need to be there, and whatever "neglect" resulted in their removal can usually be remedied with just money. I unfortunately cannot remember whom (please leave a comment if you know), but a presenter at the Columbia Journal of Race and Law Strengthened Bonds conference last year pointed out that middle-class families experience the same issues that result in foster care for poor families (health issues, substance misuse), but solve these by hiring caregivers and homemakers. The reason we don't just use public funds to do the same thing and keep families together is that federal laws provide huge amounts of money for foster care and adoption but incredibly little for family stabilization. This is largely because the primary lobbying group for child welfare policy is connected to a private evangelical adoption agency.
The few children who are truly not safe at home can generally be placed safely with a relative or friend, but usually are not due to the dynamics illustrated in The New Jim Crow and Shattered Bonds, in which an overwhelming number of poor and/or Black adults have criminal records or child welfare records, not because of anything truly unsafe, but because communities are disproportionately policed. The policies that Richard Wexler calls "Better Safe than Sorry" approaches mean that child welfare agencies are typically opposed to placing a child with a perfectly safe relative who has a child welfare history involving school attendance or disagreeing with a medical provider over a minor issue. Children who are with people they know have much better outcomes, grow up knowing their family of origin, and generally go home faster. They also are much less likely to "age out" of care and have nowhere to live even if they turn 18 still living with a relative.
This brings me to my next issue, which is that the children placed in foster care with strangers shouldn't be "aging out" either. We need massive reform in terms of the attitudes and expectations of the child care system. I cannot imagine having the attitude that any child who has ever stayed in home would not be welcome indefinitely. Most people do not kick biological children out of their homes at 18 (and those who do are viewed as harsh and heartless), so I do not know why this is considered acceptable for children in foster care. Children in care are viewed as expendable though, even (especially?) by the system. The system allows parents to "give their notice" in stating that they no longer want a particular child in their home, and then are permitted to continue fostering as if they did not just abandon a child. There is slightly more scrutiny when parents do this with children for whom an adoption has been finalized, but I also see that occur (and have seen it encouraged by clinicians) and again, it is not treated the same way as parents who abandon a biological child. The harm to the child is obviously the same in all cases.