A new federal law that was included in President Donald Trump’s massive spending bill will drastically change the way states can spend its annual $8 billion in federal funds for child abuse prevention.
According to a Huffington Post story: “The law… prioritizes keeping families together and puts more money toward at-home parenting classes, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment — and puts limits on placing children in institutional settings such as group homes. It’s the most extensive overhaul of foster care in nearly four decades.”
Almost 25,000 youth age out of foster care each year, most with the goal of attending college. However, nearly 80 percent of these young adults don’t even enroll and those that do rarely graduate. That’s why states across the country are investing in educational supports to give these young men and women a chance at attaining their educational goals despite financial barriers.
The national nonprofit Foster Care to Success, in their January 2014 publication Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care, stated that 84 percent of foster youth ages 17-18 want to attend college, yet only 20 percent manage to do so, and of those, only 3 percent of those graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
Georgia’s Senate recently passed the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act (Senate Bill (SB)375), which would permit the state’s foster care and adoption agencies to refuse LGBTQ parents and others who do not share the agencies’ religious beliefs. As reported in Newsweek, the state Senate passed the bill on Friday, February 23.
The implications of this Act would reach deeper than many might think, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ rights organization. Not only would it allow agencies to refuse adoption to LGBTQ parents but also to interfaith couples, single parents and those who have been divorced. It would also impact services offered to LGBTQ youth in care.
In a statement, Marty Rouse, National Field Director of the Human Rights Campaign said, “It’s unfortunate that leaders are focusing on this bill instead of concrete ways to improve the child welfare system in Georgia. We ask the Georgia House of Representatives to reject this bill.”
While detractors, including GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, call the Act an imposition of religious values for the purpose of discrimination, others feel the Act will not impact the LGBTQ community in the ways it fears. Georgia Senator William Logan has stated that prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents will be able to go through other non-faith based agencies, adding that such arrangements would allow agencies tied to religion the ability “…to exercise their fundamental right to practice their faith.”
Georgia is a stark contrast to New Jersey, where LGBTQ families are welcomed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. To learn more about National LGBT Adoption Laws, click here.
With less than three percent of foster youth graduating college nationally each year, many youth who are, or were, in foster care find themselves dangerously disadvantaged educationally.
The numbers are stark. According to Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation on foster care issues, it is estimated that 30-50 percent of youth exit the foster care system without a high school diploma or high school equivalent. Meanwhile, only 30.7 percent of children who grow up in foster care graduate from high school.
A new national survey commissioned by two Virginia nonprofits found that youth aging out of foster care need more services as gaps in current assistance leave many vulnerable youth to fend for themselves.
According to an article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “the 22,400 children who turn 18 and age out of state foster care systems across the country annually without a permanent family face grim prospects: Within two years, about one in four wind up incarcerated, one in five become homeless, four in 10 drop out of high school and 71 percent become parents by age 21.”
The survey, conducted by the national nonprofit Child Trends and the Better Housing Coalition, discovered that the increased number of youth transition out of youth are receiving “spotty services” that leave them vulnerable.
Across the country, families will be hitting the roads for holiday visits with relatives and warm weather vacations. In fact, nearly 51 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more last week for Thanksgiving, according to AAA. For most, traveling in cars, planes and trains are a mild inconvenience of traffic jams and bad airport food. But for parents traveling with children in care, these vacations can turn into nightmare full of screaming kids without proper planning.
Traveling with children can be difficult because travel takes them away from everything they know and feel comfortable with and exposes them to an entirely new world. For foster children, whose routine has already been completely uprooted due to being removed from their homes, traveling can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining.
The temptation for many foster parents is to stay close to home to avoid adverse and unpredictable reactions, as well as the possibility of meltdowns in public places. But sometimes traveling is unavoidable, and the truth is, a child with anxiety, autism or any other hurdle is still a kid who wants to be part of the family vacation.