Florida’s Children Come First: Gov. DeSantis Signs Bill to Support Foster Youths Transition to Adulthood

A new Florida law will provide youth in Florida’s foster care system with more support as they become adults. This legislation makes an existing Independent Living support called Aftercare Services available to a population of youth who were placed with relatives, non-relatives, or adopted as a teen. Previously, they were not able to access the vital programs and assistance they needed to thrive when they transitioned to independence at 18. These services include mentoring, tutoring, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, job and career skills training, parenting classes, emergency financial assistance, financial literacy training, and more.

Senate Bill 564, also known as “Improving Outcomes for Youth from Foster Care,” was signed by Governor DeSantis on April 26, 2024, after passing unanimously in both chambers of the Florida Legislature. This important legislation is the result of advocacy by Florida Youth SHINE, a statewide advocacy organization run by and for youth who are or were in Florida’s child welfare system, supported by Florida’s Children First. The bill sponsors included Senator Ileana Garcia, Representative Chase Tramont and Representative Shane Abbott.

“The passage of this bill, introduced during this legislative session, signifies a remarkable achievement. It provides critical support that will help these youth have better long-term success as they transition into adulthood,” said Geori Seldine, Executive Director of Florida’s Children First, the organization that supports Florida Youth SHINE. “It is a testament to the power of the youth voice and to the important advocacy work of Florida Youth SHINE and Florida’s Children First to make transformative changes in the lives of children.”

“The passage of Senate Bill 564 marks a significant step forward in our commitment to the futures of our foster youth,” said Senator Ileana Garcia. “This law not only addresses critical gaps in support as these young individuals transition to adulthood but also embodies our collective dedication to empowering them towards a brighter, more secure future. It’s a privilege to help champion such transformative legislation.”

“I am immensely proud to have sponsored this crucial piece of legislation that promises to bridge the support gap for our foster youth transitioning to adulthood,” said Representative Chase Tramont. “This law is a moral commitment to ensure no young person feels abandoned at the critical juncture of becoming an independent adult. It is our hope and belief that these aftercare services will empower them to achieve not just stability, but success in their lives ahead.”

Since January 2024, more than two dozen Florida Youth SHINE members have traveled to Tallahassee to meet with nearly 100 legislators, sharing personal stories of how the lack of support when they aged out of care created challenging conditions for them, their siblings, and their peers. Though many of the youth who testified will not be able to benefit from the new law, they prioritized this issue to ensure others don’t face the same challenges they struggled through.

“Big wins like passage of the ‘Improving Outcomes for Youth from Foster Care’ bill don’t come easy. It takes hours of youth leadership and advocacy training, in-depth staff research into the issues, and building coalitions of supporters, as well as the means to provide professional clothing, travel, food, and lodging for the youth to speak out on the issues that mean so much to them,” said Howard Talenfeld, President of Florida’s Children First. “Most importantly, it takes the bravery of these young individuals, sharing vulnerable chapters of their lives to enact change, that truly drives progress for all.”

The new law seeks to equalize Aftercare benefits by standardizing them for all foster youth aged 18 to 23 who have spent at least six months in foster care after turning 14. Additionally, it expands eligibility criteria, allowing foster youth enrolled in Extended Foster Care (EFC) or Postsecondary Educational Services and Supports (PESS) programs to access Aftercare Services beyond those provided by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). It also enables DCF to distribute federal funds to eligible youth in emergencies.

“The transition from foster care to adulthood can be extraordinarily challenging,” said Representative Shane Abbott. “SB 564 expands critical services to help young adults achieve self-sufficiency and successfully transition out of the foster-care system. I was proud to cosponsor this legislation and am thankful to Governor DeSantis for signing it into law.”

“Passing this legislation wasn’t just a victory for policy—it was a triumph for every young person who deserves a chance at a brighter future. As someone who navigated the foster care system, I’m proud to see a change that empowers all young people with access to resources, mentorship, and support they never had before,” said Rebekka Behr, Florida Youth SHINE’s Statewide Legislative Chair.

Currently, certain youth in foster care are excluded from Aftercare based on their living arrangements or circumstances, creating barriers to their transition to adulthood. This includes youth under court supervision residing with non-licensed caregivers, older teenagers adopted out of the system, or those whose caregivers lack the means to provide financial support.

“I entered foster care at age six, finding hope in adoption at 15. Unfortunately, at 18, I was abruptly cast out, left to navigate homelessness alone in my senior year,” said Khiloh Lamore, Florida Youth SHINE member. “Despite a lifetime in foster care, I was ineligible for Independent Living Support due to being adopted just four months before turning 16. This left me without any support system and ineligible from all DCF Aftercare Services.”

Investing in Aftercare not only promotes individual well-being, but also yields long-term benefits for society, including reduced future costs to the state, decreased likelihood of involvement in crime, and the cultivation of tax-paying members of society.

“I was fortunate to receive Aftercare support, enabling my journey toward self-sufficiency. But a person’s childhood living situation shouldn’t dictate their access to crucial transitional aid,” said Sophia Coffey, Florida Youth SHINE Communications Chair. “Without emergency assistance, many of us risk homelessness, lack access to vital mental health services, and struggle to attain economic and housing stability necessary to pursue our dreams.”

“These young people are the true experts in the foster care system, as they have lived through it,” Seldine shared. “They understand the issues that need to be addressed to ensure others don’t encounter the same barriers to success they did. We stand in awe of their courage and determination in actively participating to enact change for all Florida’s children.”


South Florida Sun Times

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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