Raising the Cut-Off: The Empirical Case for Extending Adoption and Guardianship Subsidies from Age 18 to 21
Mary Eschelbach Hansen
American University - Department of Economics
University of South Carolina School of Law
August 26, 2008
U.C. Davis Journal of Juvenile Law & Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2009
Few children become financially independent at age 18. Adolescents often (and increasingly) rely financially on their parents or caretakers until an older age. Such reliance is likely to be greater among children who have been abused or neglected by their birth families, and who, by court finding, could not reunify with their parents. Parental abuse and neglect is often associated with special needs in children, and the dislocation from birth families to the foster care system imposes a short-term, and sometimes lasting, trauma. A disproportionate number of such children have a mental illness, behavioral challenges, or learning disability that may require the provision of services. Many children involved in foster care lose one or more years of school or have to repeat grades, leaving them living at home enrolled fulltime in secondary school past the age of 18.
Adoption and guardianship subsidies may offset part of the cost of accepting permanent responsibility for the care of a child who has been in foster care. But not all adoption and guardianship subsidies can be extended to cover costs of support past the age of 18. We explore the effects of extending adoption subsidies to age 21. Does extending subsidies increase the number of adoptions and legal guardianships from state foster care systems? Administrative data from state child welfare systems strongly suggests that the answer is affirmative.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: child welfare, abuse, neglect, adoption, guardianship, subsidy
Date posted: August 26, 2008 ; Last revised: January 26, 2009