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House Bill 50: The Fostering Connections Act-Update

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!

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House Bill 50: The Fostering Connections Act

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.

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