Opinion: Supporting our Foster Youth
Reflecting back on our childhood, many of us would probably admit that come age 18 we were not ready to live a life completely independent of our parents, or loved ones who raised us. However, in Ohio over 1,000 children age out of foster car every year, forcing them to prematurely begin a life on their own that many are not ready for.
Studies show that many of these foster youth are unable to seek out the resources that are desperately needed to succeed in a life on their own. Over half of these children do not have their GED, and nearly a third have experienced homelessness in the past year alone. Nationwide, victims of human trafficking are often foster children who were no longer within the eligible age for the foster system. It has become quite clear that the need for support does not end at age 18 for a majority of our youth in the foster system.
In response to this growing problem, I have joined forces with my colleague Representative Dorothy Pelanda (R – Marysville) to introduce legislation that will extend foster system eligibility to age 21. The bill incorporates a series of education and work requirements for these youth to remain within the foster care system. By doing so, we are creating an environment for these youth past age 21 that consists of a full-time job and an education level that will benefit them for a lifetime.
If passed, this legislation will make Ohio the 27th state that provides these foster youth with the opportunity for continued support through age 21. This approach, encouraged by President George W. Bush signing the Fostering Connection to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, has proven to be incredibly successful. Foster care extension has more than doubled the odds that these young adults would be working or in school at age 19. Additionally, women remaining in foster care have seen a 38% reduction in the frequency of pregnancy before age 20.
House Bill 50 is a vital piece of legislation for our foster youth population in Ohio. It is our responsibility to give these children every opportunity to succeed, and I am confident HB 50 will do exactly that.
– State Representative Cheryl Grossman, 23rd House District