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Two new Indiana laws aim to help former foster children

INDIANAPOLIS — Two new Indiana laws aim to help foster children who age out of the system without finding a permanent home or being reunited with their families.

One of the new measures recently signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb allows these 18-year-olds to automatically remain on Medicaid until age 26, The Journal Gazette reported. That legislation requires the Family and Social Services Administration to enroll the foster children before they age out and removes the requirement to reapply every year.

The other law makes it easier for foster youth to get a driver’s license. Republican Sen. Andy Zay of Huntington, who proposed the legislation, said a driver’s license is important to give the kids the normalcy of getting a job, going to after-school activities or out on dates.

More than 500 children in Indiana age out of the foster care system every year at age 18.

“(The legislation is) nice because when you turn 18, it’s like getting thrown to the wolves,” said Jaquesha Smart, a Fort Wayne resident who went through the foster care system. “You’re just supposed to have it together.”

According to the Kids Count Data Center, about 16,600 Indiana children were in foster care in 2015. That number has risen significantly since 2010, when about 10,700 Indiana children were in state foster care.

SCAN, Inc. social worker MaryClare Akers said she is surprised lawmakers focused on foster care youth but said it’s great for the kids.

“I hope they continue to put it in the limelight,” she said.