The work of developmental theorists explains that human behavior evolves within an environmental context. Current policy in the area of emerging adults
transitioning from the child welfare system has largely ignored the developmental perspective in favor of structural solutions or the creation of foster
homes, adoptive families, group homes, and residential facilities (i.e.; Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, Adopt and Safe Families Act, The Fostering Connections to Success and Promoting Adoptions Act, Keeping Children and Families Safe Act). Although it may be necessary to have alternative family structures when preservation of the biological family is not possible, the risk to healthy development this poses must be acknowledged and development must be supported. Problems faced by youth transitioning from foster care may be developmental not structural, suggesting a developmental approach to solving this problem. Focusing on more than outcomes in adulthood would result in a more holistic examination of the developmental experience of emerging adults.
This paper provides an overview of Life Course Developmental Theory and its potential impact on program and policy improvement for aging out youth. It also proposes a framework that allows application of developmental processes and related competency outcomes that can be used when examining the experience of aging out.