Indiana lawmakers expand resources for older foster youth

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INDIANAPOLIS — Children who age out of foster care are 25 percent more likely to be homeless or get in trouble with the law according to Indiana’s non-profit Foster Success.

The state is working to address that issue with three new laws that directly impact these young adults.

“We don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks just because we think things are getting better,” said Foster Success CEO and President Maggie Stevens.

The COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for many young adults even with the support of a family but many of these foster children who recently aged out of the system have no one to lean on during tough times.

“We’re concerned as we start to see moratoriums lift on housing, rent and utilities,” said Stevens. “We wonder what the ripple effect of that is going to be.”

That’s one reason Foster Success is still raising money for these kids aged out of foster care.

“We raised about $80,000 to launch an emergency fund for older foster youth because what we found was the Department of Child Services, the state, even our colleges and universities did a good job supporting them but most of these young adults didn’t have families to just return home to when they lost work or they couldn’t go to school anymore,” said Stevens.

New laws are also expected to help.

One of them, HEA 1536 allows people older than 23 to get state resources during a declared emergency.

“This will allow DCS to act much more quickly depending on what’s happening around us,” said Stevens.

Then there’s a law, HEA 1537 giving at least two aged out foster kids a seat at the table on the Indiana Commission to Improve the Status of Children.

“So, when we are passing potential legislation or making decisions, we have the input from a person who has already lived that life,” said State Rep. Dale DeVon, the Chair of the House Family and Children Committee.

The General Assembly is also improving communication with the Department of Child Services by requiring yearly reports from childcare institutions and agencies in HEA 1532.

“I think if people have hope, kids have hope they can succeed in life,” said State Rep. DeVon.

He is planning to propose legislation next session that would close Indiana’s four state juvenile detention centers and move those people to their respective county facilities. DeVon said the state could use the money from those closed juvenile facilities for family resource centers in every community. Some states are already implementing a similar model.

“Planning on doing a couple of tours this summer and find out what is and isn’t working so I can learn from their mistakes, so we don’t make our own,” said DeVon.

He said he would also like to provide transitional housing for young adults exiting foster care.

“It’s kind of my dream,” said DeVon.

Lawmakers also created a tax credit for people who donate to non-profits like Foster Success.

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