Community-based program serves foster youth after they turn 18

Three youth looking over a horizon
Dept of Child Safety
Problem Statement

Every year, hundreds of youth in Arizona turn 18 while in foster care and don’t have family support. Once foster youth age out, case management services end, which means that the teens lose support for housing, employment, education, and advocacy for physical and mental health services. Compared with their peers, youth who leave the foster care system without support are at higher risk to experience homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse, early parenthood and other adverse outcomes.

Action Taken

The Arizona Department of Child Safety implemented a program in January 2024 to help foster youth who have no family support successfully transition to adulthood and reach their full potential.

The program, LifeSet, is an intensive resource that focuses on meeting the unique needs of youth in care as they navigate the challenges of adulthood; the community-based program acts as a bridge from foster care to being an independent adult, providing crucial support to young people transitioning out of what can be tumultuous circumstances.

Through the program, specialists help young people navigate unfamiliar adult terrain by helping them secure housing; pursue educational and employment goals; access medical and mental health services; and develop skills like cooking, shopping and budgeting. Specialists meet with youth in-person at least once a week and offer 24/7 support.

LifeSet's intensive services pair with the Department of Child Safety’s existing Successful Transition to Adult skills services, which assist young adults across the state, including youth with Tribal Court involvement. DCS has also implemented a new Kinship Support Services program designed to remove the barriers that many kinship caregivers face, strengthening potential family support.

Results & Impact

LifeSet program participation has been shown to increase earnings, improve economic well-being and employment opportunity, reduce homelessness, improve mental health, and reduce domestic and intimate partner violence. The program has already had 43 referrals in its first month. The goal is to enroll all eligible youth so they can successfully transition to adulthood and to mitigate the adverse outcomes that foster youth may experience when leaving care.

"I think this program is very good," said foster youth V.M. age 17, who is enrolled in the program. "They coached me through my problems and concerns. They have helped me set goals for my future, are very reasonable, and they have helped me apply for a job.”