Los Angeles County Looks to Digital Tools to Assist Young Adults Leaving Foster Care

Young adults in need of assistance in Los Angeles County who are used to living life through their mobile devices now have ready access to benefits that could help them avoid homelessness, hunger and other hazards of life after foster care.

Eighteen and pregnant looking for services to prepare you for parenthood? Twenty-two and looking for housing on your own for the first time?

Is there training for work as a mechanic at age 23?

A new digital tool aims to answer those questions for local youth ages 14 to 26 who are currently or or have been in foster care or on probation. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services’ “Benefits Eligibility Finder” was launched earlier this month on the agency’s website, allowing users to filter results based on factors like age and education level. The portal makes clear that information provided is anonymous, and questionnaire results are not linked to any personal information. “Your data is not kept nor tracked,” the site assures users.

In a press release announcing the new tool, department Director Brandon Nichols said, “It’s important to us that young people and their support systems have easy access to the information that can help their transition to adulthood be as successful as possible.”

There are roughly 7,400 young people ages 14 through 21 under the department’s supervision and about 1,600 more who age out of the state’s largest child welfare system each year. Yet even in a relatively resource-rich place like this massive Southern California county, finding housing, health care, job training or financial aid can be challenging for many young people trying to survive without the guidance of an adult family member. Services are scattered across different agencies, and eligibility varies widely depending on the program. Some housing services for foster youth end at age 21, while access to employment-related programs can last until age 24.

Can I get food stamps? Medi-Cal? What about subsidized day care?

Officials from Los Angeles County’s Office of Child Protection want these questions answered quickly, simply and in an accessible way. They described the Benefits Eligibility Finder as a way to expand awareness of all the supportive programs that are available to current and former foster youth — before they end up in a crisis.

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