Rep. Bass introduces bipartisan legislation to ensure foster youth can continue to receive crucial housing and healthcare through age 23
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Rep. Bass introduces bipartisan legislation to ensure foster youth can continue to receive crucial housing and healthcare through age 23

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 24, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — As part of her work to ensure that foster youth are successful as they move into adulthood and to combat some of the startling statistics about former foster youth, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) today joined the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth co-chairs Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Diane Black (R-TN) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) to introduce H.R. 3160, the “Foster Youth Independence Act of 2015.” This legislation will enable foster youth to continue to receive much-needed resources as they transition into adulthood and independence.

Every year, 23,000 young people age out of foster care in need of various support to transition into adulthood–including housing, healthcare, education, financial literacy, and job training.  Youth who age out of care face many challenges when adjusting to life on their own. Last year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded that between 11 and 37 percent of youth who age out of foster care experience homelessness after they transition, and an additional 25 to 50 percent do not have stable housing when they leave the foster care system.

One foster youth who would benefit from this legislation is Briana Smith from Los Angeles, California. A 20-year-old college junior majoring in accounting, Briana will have to face difficult choices when she ages out of the foster care system at her next birthday.

“I’m scared,” said Briana. “I am going to be out on my own, and I will have to establish everything. I will lose my healthcare and my housing, and I will need to find an apartment while I establish my credit.”

Having two more years would be incredibly beneficial to Briana.

“The system is my parents,” she said as she was grateful for the prospect of having two more years of support.

The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program is designed to offer assistance to Briana and other aged out youth to attain “self-sufficiency” up to age 21. However, studies have concluded that youth do not mentally mature into adulthood by 21, leaving many “aged out” foster youth left to fend for themselves while navigating the world.

This legislation will help curb some of the trends that have impacted young people who leave the foster care system. Today, only 4 percent of youth who age out of foster care earn a 4-year college degree by the time they are 26, compared to 36 percent of youth in the general population, and only half will have found a job.

“In the best of home support situations it is difficult for a young person today to be completely independent by the time they turn 21. That challenge becomes even greater for foster youth,” said Rep. Bass. “Ensuring that young people like Briana can still have access to stable housing and healthcare is an investment that will pay off in better college graduation outcomes as well as job placements and guaranteeing that they can succeed as adults.”

The “Foster Youth Independence Act of 2015” will help young people by expanding the John H. Chafee Foster Independence Program to age 23 to aged-out foster youth in states that have already expanded eligibility to age 21.  Foster youth will benefit from the added support of programs designed to prepare them for a successful transition into independence and adulthood. States will also benefit from the flexibility to provide support in the manner that best serves foster youth as they approach the age when they will age out.

The legislation will not require additional spending as it provides authorization to use existing funds for current foster youth.

A broad bipartisan coalition including Reps. Lou Barletta (R-PA), André Carson (D-IN), Judy Chu (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY),Danny Davis (D-IL), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Mike Honda (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Bill Keating (D-MA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) joined the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth co-chairs as original co-sponsors of the “Foster Youth Independence Act of 2015.”

The National Children’s Alliance, The Human Rights Project for Girls, First Focus Campaign for Children and the Child Welfare League of America also joined in supporting the legislation.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THE JOHN H. CHAFEE FOSTER CARE INDEPENDENCE PROGRAM

The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program offers assistance to help current and former foster care youths achieve self-sufficiency. Grants are offered to states and tribes that submit a plan to assist youth in a wide variety of areas designed to support a successful transition to adulthood. Activities and programs include, but are not limited to, help with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support and assured connections to caring adults for older youth in foster care. The program is intended to serve youth likely to remain in foster care until age 18, youth who, after 16 years of age, have left foster care for kinship guardianship or adoption, and young adults ages 18-21 who have aged out of the foster care system.

Click here for a link to a fact sheet on the “Foster Youth Independence Act of 2015.”

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