A lot of voices informed the most recent COVID relief bill, but most notable to those of us at Foster Success were the voices of older foster youth and former foster care youth from across the country informing the Supporting Foster Youth & Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R. 7947) authored by Representatives Danny Davis (D – IL) and Jackie Walorski (R – IN) which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The voices of teens and young adults who have experienced foster care helped write the law that will pave the way for millions of dollars of additional support for themselves and their peers. Their voices were heard and needs made clear in multiple Town Halls, Listening Sessions, op eds, and legislative visits. From the beginning of the pandemic until the bill was signed days ago, young people led the advocacy efforts that resulted in the passage of this important bill.
The direct impact of the bill on the lives of youth in and leaving foster is significant and includes:
- Provisions prohibiting states from exiting youth from foster care due to age
- Increased funding and age eligibility for Chafee funded supportive resources for older foster youth
- Increased per-student funding for post-secondary education expenses through the Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program
- Permanence to the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program to reduce homelessness among young adults transitioning out of foster care
In May, Governor Holcomb recognized the unique needs of Indiana’s older youth in foster care and issued Executive Order 20 – 31 allowing for the continuation of Collaborative Care (extended foster care services) for older foster youth beyond age 21. Without the family support that many others have to fall back on, this has significantly helped Indiana’s older youth in foster care, and now with the provisions in the COVID relief package, not only will more of Indiana’s older youth in foster care be eligible for support, but older youth in and leaving foster care across the country will have access to the same resources.
Organizations in Indiana and across the country have been advocating for this support for the past 10 months. We are encouraged by the inclusion of these provisions in the relief bill and we look forward to working with our local, state, and federal lawmakers to ensure that the support foster care youth need outlasts the impact of this pandemic.