New Law In Effect, Prompts Call for more Central Florida Foster Parents
Youth Who Now Turn 18 in Foster Care Eligible to Remain in Foster Care Program as Young Adults
Orlando, Florida, (1/8/14) – The Florida Department of Children and Families along with partner Community Based Care Organizations (foster care and adoption related agencies) across the state, including here in Central Florida, welcomed the New Year with a new law, which provides teens that turn 18 while in foster care the opportunity to remain in foster care. The new law, which took effect January 1, is hoped to model a structure more similar to the family structure for teens not in foster care, but home with their biological parents. “Turning 18 should be a milestone to celebrate, but for some young adults in foster care, this birthday can bring strong mixed emotions. We want these young people to remain focused on their education, career building skills as well as know that they are still part of a family at 18, rather than feel the entire pressure or weight of making it on their own while still a teen,” notes Bill D’Aiuto, the Regional Managing Director for DCF in Central Florida.
Research shows that approximately 40 percent of adult children under the age of 25 live with a parent. ” If 40 percent of adult children aren’t ready to move out of their parent’s home before 25, how can we expect those that have spent time in the foster care system to be ready at 18? Extending the time allotted to remain in foster care allows our teens to better prepare for independence and establish a stronger foot hold before stepping out on the road to independence,” explains John Cooper, CEO of Kid’s Central Inc. Glen Casel, CEO of Community Based Care of Central Florida concurs: “Extending the age limit for foster care will give young adults a more natural transition to independence while supporting them as they pursue opportunities for post-secondary education or job training. Our new Independent Living program will assist by offering resources to support 18-to-23-year-olds after high school graduation.”
In the first two months of 2014, just over 30 young adults will turn 18 in foster care in DCF’s Central Region which includes 12 counties. While these youth would have been eligible for some services post 18 through the previous model, the proponent for change, sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert, was to reduce the likelihood that youth in foster care would more likely become homeless, incarcerated, or experience substance abuse.
Since the New Year, teens are eligible to remain in foster care, with their foster parent or caregiver if they remain active and engaged in their education and career focus, whether that is completing high school, community college, or pursing a four year institution or career/vocational program. Teens in extended foster care are also expected to hold a part time job. While tuition is covered through state waivers, these youth are now eligible for Medicaid until age 26. The model also considers that any teen can lose focus or become distracted during these years and allows for their return should they become ineligible at some point.
In response, Community Based Care organizations have been preparing for the arrival of the New Year, focusing on additional capacity for teens in foster care, or new partnerships with organizations that help teens in crisis – such as Covenant House and the Beta House, both here in Orlando who will be teaming up with Community Based Care of Central Florida. Want to help? Organizations right now are looking for additional foster parents for teens in care (visit www.fosteringflorida.com)
“Although this is a step in the right direction for our young people, there is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to make sure the appropriate resources are dedicated to the new program to ensure its success”, adds John Cooper of KCI.
A fall data snapshot found that in Central Florida about 200 teens in foster care will turn 18 this calendar year, more than 500 young adults (18-21) were currently being served through the previous model of post foster care services (known as Independent Living.) Community Based Care organizations in Central Florida have done a tremendous job preparing for the changes in such a short time. For this, they are commended.