New law aids Foster Children Aging out of system

Mike Seals - May 11, 2021 11:25 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed legislation to help children aging out of the Oklahoma foster care system become self-sufficient.

House Bill 1709, also known as the Successful Adulthood Act, lowers the age that someone in foster care could access federal funding through the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP), operated by the U.S. Children’s Bureau, from the current age of 18 to age 16.

CFCIP offers assistance to help current and former foster care youths achieve self-sufficiency. The funding allows them financial support for apartments, cars, college textbooks and more. CFCIP currently allows foster children as young as 14 to access the funding, but previous legislative action raised the age to 18 in 2000.

The bill’s author, Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, said earlier access to this funding would help foster children become self-sufficient as they prepare to age out of foster care, hopefully lowering the percentages of former foster children who are incarcerated or homeless. Hill and his wife were foster parents for several years.

“All too often, children who are in the foster care system, due to circumstances outside of their control, fall through the cracks because we, as a state, nation and society, are not intervening early enough,” Hill said. “I’ve been pursuing this legislation since I was first elected to the House in 2018. It’s my hope that, with the enactment of the Successful Adulthood Act, we can offer more steps to our foster children to help them become self-sufficient and, in the process, reduce our incarceration rate and save Oklahoma money in the long-run.”

HB1709 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City.

“Breaking these cycles of abuse and neglect means not only getting these children in a safe environment, but making sure they have the tools they need to transition into successful independence as young adults,” Rosino said. “This change will give those teens more time to take advantage of the services that will help them do that. It was my pleasure to work with Representative Hill on this legislation, and I thank the Legislature and Governor Stitt for their approval.”

Approximately one in four children who age out of foster care ends up incarcerated. After reaching the age of 18, 20% of foster kids will become instantly homeless. Statistics from the U.S. Children’s Bureau reveal that more than 24% of former foster youth experience homelessness at some point in their life.

The bill passed with an emergency and went into effect immediately upon being signed into law by the Governor on Monday morning.

 

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