Vinny Wilson, 19, walks into his apartment, which he shares with his girlfriend, in south Seattle on 9/17/2013.
Vinny has sent much of his life in foster care. Many adults in his biological family have been involved with gangs. Since aging out Vinny has become determined to support and better himself. He works and attends college full-time. He wants to be an accountant. “When I was younger I would cry every night, do the dishes and daydream about my mom and dad coming back.” 

Credit: Mike Kane for InvestigateWest

Aging Out of Foster Care

There is a solution to the problem of “aging out,” but evidence on whether it works is scant. As legislators weigh the benefits with the predicted cost of scaling up the program to cover every young person about to age out of the system – including those with criminal records – InvestigateWest examines what happens what foster teens reach the end of the line.

Two bills before the state legislature in 2013 would extend foster care benefits to age 21.

Aged out and alone at 18

Two bills now before the state legislature, including one that got a Senate committee hearing this week (SB 5405), seek to ease the rocky transition out of foster care in Washington by extending monthly benefits to age 21. Currently, nearly 600 wards of the state turn 18 each year with little in the way of a support network, and the results are no surprise: Former foster youth have off-the-charts rates of homelessness and post-traumatic stress.