INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) leaders work to fix the problems plaguing the agency, the director announced plans to offer more support to kids in the system.
They are working to expand services for foster youth from age 21 to 23. When foster children turn 18 and leave their foster homes without the right support, they are more likely to end up homeless or in the criminal justice system. The planned DCS changes aim to give these kids a fair chance to succeed beyond high school.
Joshua Christian was in foster care by age two.
“I entered care when I was a really young boy and I moved around the state many times growing up,” Christian said. “Sometimes, you lack education because you’re moving from one home to another.”
For young people like him, the future can be uncertain.
“If you age out of care and you don’t have anything – where are you going to go?” Christian asked.
He was able to make it to Marian University with the help of a DCS specialist.
“Literally anything you should learn from mom or dad, they give you those skills so you can become more independent,” Christian said. “I’m able to have a tutor and I’m able to have financial help.”
For foster youth right now, the services end once they turn 21. Christian will reach that milestone in just weeks. On Monday, DCS director Terry Stigdon announced plans to raise the age to 23.
“With these services being extended, I could continue getting these things,” Christian said.
Brent Kent is the president of Indiana Connected by 25, a group that works to help foster youth transition to adulthood. He said he is hopeful after hearing the announcement from Stigdon.
“The longer we can provide some off ramp services to help them transition into independent living and successful adulthood the more the state saves,” Kent said. “This gives foster youth the same kind of support most of us receive from our family.”
Kent said two more years in the system can prove to be vital in a young person’s life.
“This is our best homeless prevention strategy that we have,” Kent said. “Lower rates of early pregnancy and lower rates of involvement in criminal justice system.”
There is still no official word on when the age change for services will be implemented.