INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – While presenting his 2019 Next Level Agenda on Thursday, Governor Eric Holcomb announced the state would be expanding foster care services to age 23.
For kids who age out of foster care at age 18 without being placed with a family, their future is anything but certain. According to a study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, only half of those kids will be employed by age 24. Less than 3 percent will graduate college by age 25. By extending the services foster care provides, advocates are hoping those numbers will change.
“Were really excited about this because it's going to help a lot of youth throughout the state of Indiana,” advocate Joshua Christian said about the announcement.
Christian spent nearly his entire life in the foster care system, moving around to 18 different homes throughout his childhood.
"It's really challenging to say 'oh, I'm going to be in college by age 21,”' Christian said. "You don't know if you're going to have a home in five months from now, and quite often young people are just in survivor mode trying to make it.”
Christian phased out of foster care at age 18, but was able to take advantage of services offered until he turned 21 this year. Those services helped him apply for college and even receive tutoring. He’s now on his way to graduating with a psychology degree from Marian University.
“The youth that we work with demonstrate again and again, that all they need is some of the same kind of supports that most of us receive from a family, and when they have those supports, they do amazing things,” said Brent Kent, President and CEO of the nonprofit Indiana Connected by 25.
His organization has been advocating for this change, and he says the change will help more foster kids become independent.
"It’s not hard to find young people in Indianapolis, in shelters downtown on the near east side, who came out of foster care,” Kent said.
"This isn't a handout," he added. "This is helping kids who are already working very hard to give themselves a better life.”
After Christian turned 21, he lost his foster care services, including his tutor. However, he has found a forever family with his former case manager, and has found a future career path advocating for other youth just like him.
“I think it's going to change a lot of lives in a positive direction," Christian said of the new policy. "And for me, that's a really awesome thing.”
Using his psychology degree, Christian is pursuing a career as a lobbyist and plans to advocate for kids in foster care. He just returned from Washington D.C. two weeks ago, where he received a national award for his work.