Florida's Children First

Bill proposes foster care ‘age out’ changes

Posted: Apr 29, 2013 5:35 PM EDTUpdated: Apr 29, 2013 6:21 PM EDT

By Clifton French
FORT MYERS -Right now, children in foster care are kicked out of the system as soon as they turn 18. There are programs that help them find jobs, get an education and give them financial support, but they’re forced out of a home with a family. That could all change next year with a bill that’s getting major support in the state legislature.

SB 1036, known as the “Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act“, would increase the age from 18 to 21.

“We’ve adopted 6 kids through the foster care system,” Rebecca Hoskins, a long time foster parent, said.

Hoskins has fostered 90 kids in 9 years. She adopted 6 of them so they have a permanent place to live.

She says she is a strong supporter of the new bill.

“If a child ages out at 18 and they’re not adopted, they’re forced to move from the people that have taken care of them, they don’t have anyone to go to,” she said.

Her oldest daughter is a good example. Now 19, she’s still finishing up high school, something that would have been tough if she wasn’t adopted.

“She would have stayed with me as long as possible, but I don’t know what they would have told her, ‘OK, you’re 18 sorry,’” Hoskins said.

The new legislation would give a foster child the option to leave the system at 18, but would also give them the option to come back before their 21st birthday.

“Our agency supports anything that’s good for children,” said Aimee McLaughlin with the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida.

McLaughlin believes the new legislation will help older foster children.

“They can have support form an agency, the courts can look in on them,” she said. “For a child who’s living in a foster home that might be in high school, it means they can continue a relationship with a parent that they have built a bond with.”

McLaughlin says if all 28 children in foster care turning 18 this year in Southwest Florida were to decide to stay in foster care longer, it would cost about $100,000 to implement the new program – a number that would grow in the next couple of years.

She also says it’s hard to predict how much it will cost because they don’t know how many children will wish to stay.

Experts do believe the change will save money in other social services areas.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate and is expected to pass the House within the next couple of weeks.

 

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