Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rhode Island Governor is prepared to sacrifice foster children for money

In his effort to close a $360 million budget deficit over two years, Governor Donald Carcieri is willing to sacrifice the futures of teenagers aging out of foster care.

Governor Carcieri has proposed that his state might save approximately $9 million by eliminating services to children in state care when they turn 18.

If passed, a Rhode Island proposal to cut foster kids off of care at age 18, will have serious consequences. Former foster children between the ages of 18-21 would no longer receive the aid that helps them pay for things like school, rent and health insurance.

The Governor has defended his proposal by claiming that teenagers aging out of foster care are less vulnerable than children or senior citizens, because teens will be able to accommodate these service reductions.

Statistics tell a different story.

Casey research has revealed that, four years after leaving state care:
- 25 percent of youth have become homeless
- 42 percent have become parents themselves
- Fewer than one in five is able to support him/herself


Gary Stangler, Executive Director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, reports that teens who age out of foster care are almost three times as likely as their peers to be disconnected for work or school -- and less likely to receive medical and psychological care.

Half of young adults ages 18-24 in the general population in the United States live at home with their parents, according Children's Rights. Most young adults in the general population rely upon their families for assistance with a place to live, financial support and other guidance as they transition to adulthood.

If children from stable homes and loving families are unable to leave home at age 18 and live independently of their parents, the Governor is being callous and unrealistic to expect more from foster care alumni.

One foster care alumna who has spoken out about this issue is 18-year-old Amanda Addison. She has been bounced around in various placements, including intake centers to short-term foster care homes since childhood, and is now barely scraping by on a $100 a week while preparing to attend community college.

But she worries her plans could be jeopardized if the state lowers the cutoff age for foster care services to eightteen. "It would change everything. I wouldn't be able to go to school. I wouldn't be able to follow my dreams."

Sources:
Baron, Jim. R.I. urged not to drop foster kids at 18. Pawtucket Times, April 4, 2007.
Cook, Nancy. Rhode Island considers foster care cutbacks. NPR, April 12, 2007.
Norton, Justin. R.I. ponders future of foster care. Boston National News, March 16, 2007.

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