Thursday, August 23, 2007

Key Legislation to Extend Foster Care Introduced

by Christina Romo, NACAC Program Assistant

On May 24, 2007, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), introduced legislation that would extend foster care for young adults over the age of 18. The Foster Care Continuing Opportunities Act (S. 1512) would extend federal foster care funding for young adults 18 to 21, therefore improving services provided to youth making the transition from childhood to adulthood. As Senator Boxer said in an op-ed, "These are not just statistics – these are the lives of the young people who, without our help, have very limited options."

Each year, about 23,000 foster youth age out of care to a bleak future. No longer covered by foster care services, many have no one to turn to and no place to go. An alarming number of emancipated foster youth end up homeless or in jail. While turning 18 is exciting for most of America’s youth, it is a frightening prospect for those who are about to age out of foster care.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 50 percent of young adults age 18 to 24 are currently living at home (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March and Annual Social and Economic Supplements, 2006). With the knowledge that the average young adults in America are leaving home in their mid-20s, it is hard to expect 18-year-olds aging out of foster care to be ready for life on their own.

With the Foster Care Continuing Opportunities Act, Senator Boxer’s hope is that federal IV-E funding will be provided to states so that essential foster care services such as housing, food, and legal services will be provided to youth over the age of 18. Illinois, Arizona, Connecticut, and Florida currently offer support for foster youth over the age of 18, but state and local monies are used to fund continuing foster care support for youth in these states. Boxer proposes that federal IV-E funding should match state and county funds to provide foster care payments and additional costs for foster youth 18 to 21. This will allow youth to voluntarily remain in foster care until the age of 21, thus providing them with the services and support needed to transition more successfully into adulthood.

In the words of Senator Boxer, “We must do more for these young adults who deserve much better.”

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