Think about it; you just turned 18 and are on the brink of adulthood. The world is your oyster and you now have to figure out what to do as you end your high school career and move on. Now think about having to figure this out without the support of a family or mentor in your life. What would you do if you left home at 18 with nowhere to call home or no one to fall back on? Each year more than 1,000 Ohio youth age out of the foster care system when they turn 18. For many, this means the end of many supports that the foster care system offers including financial, educational, familial and social. According to a report by Ohio Fostering Connections, by the time foster youth had turned 19 years old the following statistics applied:
* 14% had a child
*24% worked part time; 12% worked full time
*26% experienced homelessness
*36% experienced incarceration
*53% had not completed high school or received a GED
The good news is Ohio is trying to change these statistics by recently passing House Bill 50. This bill will expand services to foster youth until the age of 21. It will also expand services to those youth adopted after age 16, through their 21st birthdays. The passing of this bill in Ohio comes after similar programs have been started in 26 states nationwide. According to Fostering Connections, these states have seen an increase in education and employment and lower levels of incarceration and homelessness among foster youth. House Bill 50 does not simply mean that children will continue to stay in foster homes until the age of 21; instead it brings an array of services including independent housing, and college and career preparation that foster youth can voluntarily participate in.
Officially, the bill will become a state law, The Ohio Fostering Connections Act on July 1, 2016. From there, The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services along with the Ohio Fostering Connections task force will take the next eighteen months to fully design and implement the specific services for emancipating youth. UMCH is proud to be a part of this monumental change and will work along with ODJFS in providing support to emancipating youth. Please stay tuned to see how this implementation will change Ohio’s foster care system and strengthen our support to one of our most vulnerable populations- youth aging out of the system.