Commentary

Congress must make a continued difference in the lives of youth in foster care | Opinion

Important resources for foster youth expire today, Sept. 30, 2021, and they must be renewed

(Pa. Partnerships for Children, photo)

By Youth Fostering Change

We are young leaders who have current and former experience in the foster care system who are working to reform the child welfare system.

We have partnered and worked with the Department of Human Services and our state and federal legislators in the past on various issues to ensure the safety, and well-being for older youth and young adults in and exiting the foster care system. We are coming together today to urge Congress to not allow support to end for youth in foster care today.

Young people in the foster care system are extremely vulnerable when they are no longer connected to supportive services, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The older youth provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Division X of the Act, which became effective on December 27, 2020, provides vital relief to young people in and leaving foster care.

These provisions required states to continue to provide placement and services to youth even if they were set to age out; provided for re-entry into foster care for youth under 22; offered $400 in Chafee funds to aid, services and supports to young people with $50 million to be used for Education and Training vouchers; increased the individual Education and Training voucher maximum; and extended Chafee eligibility through age 26.

These resources for youth in foster care and those aging out were and continue to be needed at such a crucial time. Youth are still in need of being connected to these new federal resources that are expected to end today Sept. 30, 2021.

More than 20,000 young people are at risk of being forced out of foster care and being immediately cut off from services that will expire after today.

Congress must make a continued difference in the lives of youth in foster care. They can do this by-passing HR 5167 – bipartisan legislation which keeps youth in foster care by ensuring they are still connected to lifesaving support by extending the provisions of the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act for one more year. Young people continue to have urgent needs to access safe housing, food, services, and necessities, and at risk of aging out of foster care into homelessness – a burden that states would feel economically.

Youth need to truly get the support owed to them and what is necessary for states to plan and continue to administer effective programming in this uncertain pandemic affecting families all over the world. This affect is felt heavily on youth without family and with limited access to family-based supports. Based on the needs identified by our peers in Covid-19 and our experience aging out of care during the pandemic, we support the passing of HR 5167 to ensure that there is continued expansion of services for resumption of jurisdiction, discharge planning, and transition services that include support for housing, education, and other specialized services under Chafee.   

We believe that Congress has an important opportunity and duty to continue to provide critical support to children under the care of the Department of Human Services. They should not be abruptly cut off from support. Young people in foster care deserve our help and need this vital support. We hope that those in Washington can reach across the aisle today and get this done before it is too late.

  Youth Fostering Change is a project of Juvenile Law Center. They write from Philadelphia. 

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