Young people aging out of Michigan’s foster care system at 18 will soon have the option to receive life-directing support until age 21, under legislation signed into law today by Gov. Rick Snyder. With the signing of the legislation, the Michigan Department of Human Services can begin moving forward with federal review and approval. The program is expected to begin in early 2012.
Many of the 800 foster care youths turning 18 each year lose the only reliable adult support they have ever known – some even become homeless – when funding for their care ends.
“Young people in foster care need the same kind of support other 18-year-olds do as they navigate the crucial years leading up to age 21,” Snyder said. “The Fostering Connections legislation will give those who wish to receive it the extra assistance they need to become successful adults.”
Extended benefits are made possible by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which gave states the option of receiving matching federal funds for providing additional services.
“Michigan is proud to be in the forefront of this important reform effort,” said Maura Corrigan, director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. “Offering an additional three years of support to young people who are on the cusp of adulthood will help ensure they successfully arrive at that destination.”
Under the legislation, officially known as the Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Act, Michigan will offer 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds the option of living in a licensed foster family home, a child care institution or a supervised independent living arrangement. In addition they will receive case management support, training in independent living skills, counseling services and medical assistance.
Foster teens, in turn, must be enrolled in college or vocational training or be working at least 80 hours a month, unless they have a medical condition that prevents it, to receive services.
The legislation addresses growing evidence that foster care youth who receive extended supports are more likely to become successful adults. Statistics show that only half of Michigan youths aging out of the foster care system are likely to earn a high school diploma and, of those, only 10 percent will enroll in college or other training. What’s more, foster care youths are at greater risk of early pregnancy, welfare dependence and arrest, national studies show.
“Few young people can make their way in the world unassisted at age 18,” Corrigan said. “This legislation recognizes the reality of that and provides the kind of assistance that can keep foster care youths on the right track to independence.”
Senate Bills 435 through 440, sponsored by state Sens. Bruce Caswell, Judy Emmons, Mark Jansen, John Moolenaar, Mike Nofs and John Proos, respectively, are now Public Acts 225 through 230 of 2011. Detailed descriptions of the bill may be found online at www.legislature.mi.gov.
The bill signing came during the celebration of Michigan Adoption Day, an annual event started nine years ago by Corrigan, then serving as a state Supreme Court justice. The event is co-sponsored by the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Department of Human Services, Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange and the Family Services Division of the State Court Administrative Office.