June 29, 2012
Pennsylvania General Assembly Passes Legislation to Support Older Foster Youth
The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed House Bill 75 this week, improving the chances for success for foster youth who are making the transition to independence and adulthood. The new law—which Juvenile Law Center worked closely with Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children to promote (read our joint white paper, "Maximizing 'Fostering Connections' to Benefit Pennsylvania Youth," here)—will bring more federal dollars to Pennsylvania and provide additional supports to older foster youth. These youth face tremendous barriers to making it on their own as adults, but the new law will enable more foster youth to remain in care past age 18 and enable county children and youth agencies to provide expanded support and guidance for them.
While remaining in care past age 18, youth may pursue an education or job training or they may focus on employment, receive treatment, and participate in programs that remove barriers to employment. Importantly, the legislation allows youth to re-enter foster care before reaching 21 if they age out at 18 and need additional support. Few youth are prepared to be completely independent at the age of 18 and foster youth are usually even less prepared, often falling upon hard times. Other youth who have the benefit of growing up in a family often leave and return home as they find their place in the world. Foster youth never had that option. The new law will thus allow foster youth to have some of what a youth growing up in a family would experience.
The new law was actively promoted by Governor Corbett, as well as by former foster youth. Because May was National Foster Care Month, Juvenile Law Center invited former foster youth to be guest bloggers on our website, challenging citizens and lawmakers to stand up for foster youth. One of those guests was John Levan, who challenged us to find these youth families and permanency, but stated, "If we do not, we must stand behind them, support them, and give them time to grow up, heal from what is often a history of abuse and neglect, and get the skills they need to make a meaningful future for themselves."
HB 75 demonstrates the commitment of our lawmakers to give some of our most vulnerable youth a meaningful opportunity for success as adults by providing them the care, guidance, and support that they deserve.
Read the section of HB 75 that pertains to foster youth here.
Read our press release about this new legislation here.