Thanks to legislation that passed in the 2013 session, young Floridians in foster care now have the option of staying in state custody till the age of 21. Previously, once a foster kid turned eighteen and ‘aged out’ of the system, the state cut off support, leaving teens to fend for themselves.
Today, the Department of Children and Families, along with community-based care agencies, former foster kids and child advocates, met to figure out how to implement the new law, which takes effect January first.
There are many details to be worked out, because needs change for foster kids as they enter young adulthood. DCF spokesman Whitney Ray says one of the biggest hurdles is getting teens in foster care through high school.
“These are kids who have moved homes multiple times", Ray said. "They’ve been in their biological parents’ home, and then in a foster home, and then back in a biological parents home.They’ve seen and suffered things that you and I wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies, in some cases.”
Only 30% of foster kids finish high school on time – although if they do, the state pays for them to attend a public university for a four-year degree.
Under the new law, it will be easier for them to stay in schools they’re used to.
Two key points under discussion: whether someone who has already aged out can come back into the foster care system, and whether parents will be able to adopt foster kids between the ages of 18 and 21.