POLICY PRIORITY: Extension of Care FOR FOSTER YOUTH
VOLUNTARY EXTENSION OF CARE ACT
Most Rhode Island foster youth -some 125 per year- are required to leave state supported care when they turn 18. Up until 2007, Rhode Island continued foster care services for these vulnerable young people to the age of 21 so they would have more time to succeed.
Rhode Island KIDSCOUNT reports that:
“As a group, youth who age out of foster care fare poorly across a wide spectrum of outcome measures, including employment, educational attainment, access to health care, housing stabilities, and criminal justice system involvement when compared to the general population.”
Research has found that our state:
“pays high costs for these youth even after they leave the foster system. it costs the state of Rhode Island nearly $50,000 per year to incarcerate a single inmate, $25,000 in healthcare costs for an unintended pregnancy, and tens of thousands annually in services and support for each chronically homeless person. The state also loses out on the potential tax revenue and economic growth that might result if these young adults instead found gainful employment and social stability after leaving foster care.”
24 states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, Ohio, and California have extended their systems of care to 21 for these same young people.
In December, 2016 the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families invited a national expert, Child Welfare Director and attorney Sarah Helvey of Nebraska Appleseed, to speak on extension of care. RICCF then began convening stakeholders- including the Voice Youth Leadership board, member agencies, RI KidsCount, and allies in community agencies and state government- concerned about the state’s foster youth who are exiting the system without a permanent home or guardianship. The stakeholder group's work, along with General Assembly leaders Representative Deborah Ruggiero and Senator Louis Dipalma, has led to introduction of 2017 companion bills H5807 and S0669. To learn more and get involved, click here.