The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) are jointly developing an implementation plan for the state’s Fostering Success Housing Voucher program.
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Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 82 into law in June, which will provide housing vouchers to young adults transitioning out of state foster care.
The Colorado Foster Youth Successful Transition to Adulthood Grant Program Advisory Board is currently working on the primary recommendations for the implementation of SB 82, which will include details of the voucher program.
The advisory board approved the rules for the program in May, which will go before the State Board of Human Services for finalization in October. CDHS is working with related state agencies on a methodology for distributing case management funding so that the needs of transitioning youth are met.
The housing voucher program will run parallel to existing state grant programs that provide developmentally appropriate assistance to transitioning youth, which include the federal John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood and the state Foster Youth Successful Transition to Adulthood Grant program, to provide housing support as part of case management services for both programs.
Trevor Williams, youth services unit manager for the Division of Child Welfare at CDHS, who will oversee the housing voucher program, told State of Reform the cost of housing and the lack of connections and support are some of the challenges youth face as they transition to become independent.
“If [foster youth] had the same types of connections and support that most young people have when they turn 18, 19, or 20, they wouldn’t be emancipating from our system, they wouldn’t be transitioning from foster care to adulthood. These are young people who need that additional support and help with connecting more broadly.
They need help getting connected with education and educational services. They need systems and services that act proportionally to mistakes that they might make that are developmentally appropriate.”
— Trevor Williams, CDHS Division of Child Welfare youth services unit manager
A national survey revealed a third of former foster youth in Colorado were experiencing homelessness by age 21. The number of Colorado youth who aged out of foster care in 2022 was 151.
The Fostering Success Housing Voucher Program will provide housing support for up to 100 foster youth between the ages of 18 and 26 who were in state custody on or after their 14th birthday.
The program will offer $1.09 million in state-funded housing vouchers and $1.44 million in case management services annually for youth who have aged out of foster care and are either homeless or at risk of being homeless.
The housing vouchers will have income limitations and case management as requirements for eligibility, but Williams said that case management is designed to take a developmentally appropriate approach, as opposed to a paternalistic one, to support youth in attaining their life goals.
“[Case management is] a partnership. It’s someone that’s showing up and saying, ‘Hey, what do you need? Do you have food this month? Did you have an income change?’ Because we know that young people on housing vouchers, when their income changes, the amount they contribute towards their rent changes, but they have to tell [administrators].
If they don’t have the money to make that rent, then you have this gap and the landlord is not paid. Even though they have a voucher, they’re actively at risk of eviction or falling into arrears or in debt with their landlord as a result.
So having someone just show up and even if it’s just that conversation, and [rent assistance is] what that young person needs in that moment, then we want to make sure that’s there so that they remain successful and keep moving towards their goals.”