Middle-class families "have created a finishing school for kids," Watts said. "It's called college. They get four more years of structure, four more years of subsidy, more time to prepare themselves for the real world."
The state, however, often releases the most unstable youths, those with "the least skill and ability to manage, control and navigate their own lives," Watts said. "They're being told to sink or swim, and good luck."
Federal funding under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program can offer a safety net until age 21 for those who choose to maintain a relationship with the state.
The money - $140 million a year nationwide - can pay for rent, transportation, computers and psychological counseling. The federal government has a related $60 million Educational and Training Vouchers Program for post-secondary schooling, offering participants vouchers of up to $5,000 per year.
Robinson said West Virginia also is returning less of that money - $126,000 two years ago and $70,000 this past year.
"Part of the conference we're planning is to teach kids there's a great opportunity, and there's all this funding here that we can provide," he says.
But if young people haven't been planning to attend college, they won't enroll in the voucher program when they get their diplomas. The state then has to return the money.
And no matter how much they need it, young people are often reluctant to accept any more help, said Alicia McIntire of the Bureau for Children and Families.
After years of answering to social workers, foster parents, probation officers, judges and others, young people often just want to cut ties.
To make the choice easier, McIntire said the agency recently shot a public-service video with graduates of the Chafee program sharing their stories. It airs repeatedly on Tuesdays through Library Television Network.
When Moore left her group home in Ceredo, she signed on for Chafee funds to cover rent and utilities. She took over a friend's apartment lease, landed a Pell Grant for tuition and enrolled at Mountwest Community College in Huntington.
But soon, she missed deadlines for submitting her monthly budget and paperwork. She lost her $650 a month in Chafee funds, so she took on extra hours at a pizza shop to make rent. She quit school and grew depressed. Trash piled up. Before long, she was evicted.
"I guess I knew I was unprepared," Moore said. "But I was excited to be out on my own, to be able to do what I wanted to do."
Moore said her husband, Sherman, 23, is the only reason she didn't end up on the street. The couple and their infant daughter lived with his parents in Wayne, saving up for a place of their own. Last month, they finally moved to a home in Kenova.
Moore said the state would be smart to focus on younger kids, but when they're on their own, they still need attention and encouragement.
"It's a really good program for kids who are determined," Moore said. "But it's best-suited for somebody who already knows what they have to do - someone who has a whole lot more self-discipline than I did at the time."