Training programs improve transition to adulthood for youth in foster care

Keith Mason, Vice President of Business Development
Heidi Strickler, National Director of Children, Adolescents and Foster Care
Alicia Vanbuskirk, Director of Performance and Improvement 

Every May, National Foster Care Month is observed, highlighting the impact and importance of the child welfare system for children, youth and families. A new theme is featured each year, and this year’s theme is, “Engaging youth. Building supports. Strengthening opportunities.”1 This campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of developing a child welfare system that authentically engages and supports young people who are preparing to leave foster care. Aligned with this theme, UnitedHealthcare Community & State has developed training resources to help foster families and youth aging out of the system.

Nearly 400k youth are currently in a foster care placement, yet as of 2021, approximately 77% of eligible youth transitioned out of their placement without receiving the federally funded services necessary to prepare them for adulthood and independent living. Our web-based training program, On My Way™, offers a gamified experience designed to teach crucial life skills to transition-aged youth. Covered topics include money management, health literacy, career development and securement of housing.

We additionally developed a training program with the National Foster Parent Association to help foster families obtain and keep their foster caregiver license. We offer this program annually via webinar during Foster Care Month.

Finally, we designed a training program through Optum Health Education for providers. This specialized child and youth program series is available at no cost and includes the following classes:

  • A firm foundation: partnerships in child welfare and juvenile justice
  • Understanding how eating disorders impact those in the child welfare system
  • Understanding human trafficking in children from the child welfare system

Research shows that 50% of children placed in foster care have no income within their first four years of aging out, and after reaching the age of 18, 20% of youth who were in foster care will become homeless.2 Our programs for transitioning youth, foster families and providers aim to improve rates of homelessness and overall health outcomes for youth who have transitioned out of the system.

It is our hope that all those helping to support children, youth, and families engaged with the child welfare system can continue to work in a collaborative manner to effectively meet their unique and special needs. We encourage medical providers to use resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children in foster care and behavioral health providers to use trauma-informed resources from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Additional resources can be found in our Foster Care Toolkit.

Learn more about how UnitedHealthcare Community & State supports the well-being of children and youth in foster care through the trauma-informed clinical model.

Get updates on Medicaid topics you care about

Be the first to know about relevant news & insights by subscribing to our newsletter.