There are a variety of applications of the phrase throughout the youth development field. In respect to foster care, aging out is the process of a youth transitioning from the formal control of the foster care system towards independent living. It is used to describe anytime a foster youth leaves the varying factors of foster care, including home, school and financial systems. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services defines an "aging out" case as, "a situation referring to a person's petition to become a permanent legal resident as a child, and in the time that passes during the processing of the application, the child turns 21 and ages out.
Often used to highlight the problems traditional foster care approaches face, aging out affects foster youth in a variety of ways. An estimated 30,000 adolescents age out of the foster care system each year in the United States.
Aging Out is also used in reference to Drum Corps International's rules which state that drum corps' members above the age of 18-to-21 are denied the ability to compete in World Class.
The Child Welfare League of America reports that as many as 36% of foster youth who have aged out of the system become homeless, 56% become unemployed, and 27% of male former foster youth become jailed. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that less than half of emancipated youth who have aged out graduate from high school, compared to 85% of all 18- to-24-year-olds; fewer than 1 in 8 graduate from a four-year college; two-thirds had not maintained employment for a year; fewer than 1 in 5 was completely self-supporting; more than a quarter of the males spent time in jail; and 4 of 10 had become parents as a result of an unplanned pregnancy.
In 1970, Title X of the Public Health Service Act started providing for the federal family planning program, designed to provide resources for health services and counseling to low-income or uninsured individuals who may otherwise lack access to health care, including young people aging out of foster care. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Family Unification Program, or FUP, provides Housing Choice Vouchers to young people aging out of the foster care system.
The Administration for Children's Services, or ACS, and the federal Office of Housing Policy and Development, in cooperation with the New York City Housing Authority, has a Section 8 Priority Code for young people aging out of the foster care system.
In 1999, President Clinton signed the Foster Care Independence Act, which doubled federal funding for independent living programs and provides funding for drug abuse prevention and health insurance for former foster care youth until age 21.
Now programs and laws such as the CFCIP—the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program—are starting to make headway into ways to compensate foster children who have become adults. $140 million is to be funded for this program including states matching 20%.
- Pittman, K. (1996) "Aging Out or Aging In?" Youth Today. January 1996. Retrieved 5/8/07.
- (2006) Trial Home Visits in Relation to "Aging Out of Foster Care" 624-10-01-40-05. State of North Dakota. Retrieved 5/8/07.
- (nd) [How Do I Prevent My Child From Losing Benefits at Age 21 ("Aging Out")?] United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved 5/8/07.
- Brackett, E. (2005) Aging Out of Foster Care, Newshour television show, PBS. May 19, 2005. Retrieved 5/8/07.
- (nd) Programs and Resources for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care. Child Welfare League of America. Retrieved May 8, 2007.
- (2005) Foster care – hope emerges. Reform efforts gain momentum. San Francisco Chronicle. 12/22/05. Retrieved 5/8/07.
- Rhodes, L. (2006) "Young writers finding a powerful voice." Retrieved 5/8/07.
- Aging Out – 2004 PBS Documentary
- IMDB Page for Aging Out Documentary
-  "The Original Foster Care Survival Guide" website. Presents the wisdom and knowledge needed to successfully transition from foster care to adulthood. Written by an attorney that was in foster care.