Legislature enhances foster youth support through proven program

Kent Reporter

When foster youth turn 19 years old they often face a difficult transition into adulthood, which the state Legislature has tried to address in recent years through extended services.

Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) has worked to pass legislation since 2012 – most recently during the 2014 session – to extend foster care benefits to 19 to 21 year olds to help them transition into adulthood while saving the state money.

During the session that ended in March, the Legislature approved a House bill that Fain sponsored in the Senate, which extends benefits to 19 through 21 year olds who work at least 80 hours per month. This builds on previous advancements in 2012 and 2013 for those attending school or in a job training program.

"Extending foster care benefits is better for these young adults and better for the state budget," said Fain, who was recognized by the Mockingbird Society in 2013 for his work. "The goal is to help young adults encountering the new challenge of being on their own participate in and contribute to society. It also makes good financial sense for the state given the data showing that extended benefits reduce long-term costs."

In 2010, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy released a study it conducted on a similar pilot program, which indicated that participants: remained in college longer; required food stamps for fewer total months; and were less likely to be arrested of a misdemeanor or felony crime.

"Having Extended Foster Care as a state policy and program gives young people aging out of foster care a healthy alternative to homelessness and criminal activity," said Jim Theofelis, executive director of the Mockingbird Society, an advocacy and policy organization working toward a world-class foster care system. "This program gives foster youth the opportunity to maintain safe housing while building a healthy adult life, making it a smart, cost-effective policy that is providing our most vulnerable young people with hope, skills and a bright future. I want to thank Senator Fain for his continued leadership on behalf of our youth in care."