You may have read our last post,House Bill 50: The Fostering Connections Act . If you did, you know that this bill will expand foster care services to the age of 21 in Ohio, if not check it out! This bill has excited a lot of youth, parents and staff working to emancipate children successfully from Ohio’s foster care program. So what has happened since the bill passed? We wanted to let you know!
The Foster to 21 Program has officially been given a name and is now known as, Bridges. It was given this name to best convey what it actually will be: a voluntary “bridge” from foster care to independence. Youth who age out of foster care will be able to request housing or other supportive services at any time between their 18th and 21st birthdays.
An advisory committee was put together by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services back in October and has been meeting regularly to discuss how to build the Bridges program and implement it effectively. They have been tackling tough issues surrounding the program’s infrastructure and policies such as how youth will smoothly transition from foster care to Bridges, identifying Ohio Administrative Code rules that may be affected by the program, as well as new rules that may be necessary to support the program, and how to effectively market this program so youth will want to take part in it.
There is still much to figure out, but we do know that in order for foster youth to be eligible for the Bridges Program they will have to meet one of the following criteria:
- Completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential.
- Enrollment in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education.
- Employed for at least 80 hours per month.
- Incapable of doing any of the above activities due to a medical condition, and incapacity is supported by regular documentation from a medical professional.
- Participating in a program or activity that is designed to remove barriers to employment.
We also know that youth enrolled in the program may be in a variety of supervised living situations, including:
- Apartment living
- Room & board arrangements
- College or university dormitories
- Host homes
- Shared roommate settings
The Advisory Board will continue to work along with The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services to build the Bridges Program and support one of our most vulnerable populations; youth emancipating form the foster care system. Right now, the program is set to be implemented on December 11th, 2017.
What do you all think of this new program? Share your comments below and be sure to check in for more updates as information is released regarding this impactful change on our system!