Saturday, March 24, 2007

Proposed $17 million cuts threaten Rhode Island teens aging out of foster care


Photo of Gov. Carcieri from http://www.coneg.org













While other states explore options to extend their services to young people transitioning out of foster care, Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri has proposed lowering the cut-off age for foster care services from 21 to 18 years old.

According to his spokeman, "It is the grim reality of having to reduce spending by $360 million. We have to balance the budget. We have no other option."

You have no other option? I think you do. These teenagers did not create the deficit. They did not choose to have parents who cannot or will not accept responsibility for them. Other young adults in "normal families" between the ages of 18-24 can live with their parents - and, statistically, 50% of them choose to do so.

Teens who have aged out of foster care know what it's like to have limited options. Has anyone in our lives taught us how to budget? How to cook? How to drive? We know what it's like to have limited options because there is no one in our lives to catch us if we fall.

A federal study of youth who had been in foster care found that one-fourth had experienced homelessness after leaving the foster care system. We former 'foster kids' are at risk for homelessness, incarceration, unwed pregnancy and joblessness.

Governor Carcieri, as a former foster child and someone who has done the research, I have some news for you. You will 'pay' for former foster children. Either you will be proactive and help them transition to adulthood, or you will be negligent and end up paying welfare or prison costs.

When I left foster care, I attended college. I started college when I was 16 years old. I was thankful for grants. I was thankful for loans. I was thankful for temporary guardians until I was 17 years old. And, frankly, the state where I lived was lucky that I chose to seek higher education, rather than repeating the cycle.

Would you rather pay for me to receive a welfare payment or loan me the money for college and grad school?

I agree wholeheartedly with Lisa Guillette, the executive director of the Rhode Island Foster Parents Association, "It's almost like building the bridge and not connecting the rest of the highway. When we get them to the most critical point of their young lives we're going to abandon them? It's immoral and it's bad policy. It's walking away from the investment we've made in them."

Sources:
Bayles, Fred and Sharon Cohen. "Chaos often the only parent for abused and neglected children." (AP) Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2000.
Norton, Justin M. Rhode Island ponders future of foster care. Associated Press, March 16, 2007.

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Comments:
Hi Lisa,

Really enjoy your blog -- your updates are ones I wouldn't usually see from mainstream news sources! Thanks for the comment on my blog, thus far I am not only learning a lot from the group homes, but loving it too.

--Megan
 
i'm not sure why foster kids have to borrow money for post secondary.
since the government assumed the role as parents, education should be free. it's one way of keeping us off welfare.
 
Megan, thank you so much! I am glad to hear that you are learning from my blog.

Erika,
I'm preparing a presentation for an Independent Living Summit. Part of it will be how much it costs the state NOT to help children aging out of care.

Lisa
 
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