Since 1985 federal law has recognized that older youth in foster care deserve special attention and programming. In that year, the Independent Living program was added to the Social Security Act. In 1999, the law was further amended by the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act (Chafee), 42 U.S.C. § 677. The purposes of the Act, as amended in 2002, are:
- to identify children who are likely to remain in foster care until 18 years of age and to help these children make the transition to self-sufficiency by providing services such as assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, career exploration, vocational training, job placement and retention, training in daily living skills, training in budgeting and financial management skills, substance abuse prevention, and preventive health activities (including smoking avoidance, nutrition education, and pregnancy prevention);
- to help children who are likely to remain in foster care until 18 years of age receive the education, training, and services necessary to obtain employment;
- to help children who are likely to remain in foster care until 18 years of age prepare for and enter postsecondary training and education institutions;
- to provide personal and emotional support to children aging out of foster care, through mentors and the promotion of interactions with dedicated adults;
- to provide financial, housing, counseling, employment, education, and other appropriate support and services to former foster care recipients between 18 and 21 years of age to complement their own efforts to achieve self-sufficiency and to assure that program participants recognize and accept their personal responsibility for preparing for and then making the transition from adolescence to adulthood; and
- to make available vouchers for education and training, including postsecondary training and education, to youths who have aged out of foster care.
The Chafee Act provides money to Florida and other states for these purposes. In 2002, Florida first enacted § 409.1451, Fla. Stat., creating a continuum of services for foster youth and former foster youth to enable older children in foster care and young adults who exit foster care at age 18 to make the transition to self-sufficiency as adults." (Deborah Schroth, Florida Legal Services, 2006) In order to remain in compliance with both Chafee and the Adoption and Safe Families Act, it is important to understand that independent living is not an alternative to adoption. It is not a permanency plan. Independent Living describes services.
In Florida, Independent Living means any type of financial aid or service provided to eligible young adults pursuant to Florida Statute Section 409.1451(5). These benefits are categorized as aftercare support services, transitional services or the Road to Independence Program. Florida's Independent Living requirements can generally be found in § 409.1451, Fla. Stat., and Florida Administrative Code Chapters 65C-28, 65C-29, 65C-30.