COLORADO SPRINGS — Older foster youth who leave the system will now have more support and resources after Governor Polis signed a bill into law that aims to support foster youth in transition to adulthood.
HB21-1094 also known as the Foster Youth In Transition Program allows foster youth who meet eligibility criteria to continue receiving certain child welfare services. Returning to foster care would mean access to Medicaid, housing, case management, employment, education, acquisition of driver’s licenses and identification documents, and more.
Hope and Home Director of Child and Family Services Marian Percy says the more support youth can receive at a young age, the more likely they'll have a better start to life.
"They have a higher risk of homelessness, sex trafficking, and prison. It's just really difficult, and many of them have children themselves who come into our system," said Percy.
She says there are resources for young adults, but they are very limited.
"So you end up with a lot of youth on the street, couch surfing, living with relatives, or living in their car. They are just not equipped and don't have the natural supports that they need," said Percy.
Percy is looking forward to the new law, and the resources that young adults will now be able to utilize.
"I think the part that is going to be important and a part of this bill are that the kids have to buy in. So if they'll want to come back into the system, they are going to have to petition and ask the court so they can come back in. I think that's going to be a very important component," said Percy.
"A lot of the work that The Place does is with youth who've been in the foster care system. Here locally, that's 1/3 or 40 percent of the youth who experiencing homelessness have
had some kind of foster care involvement. So oftentimes, a young person in foster care has experienced trauma, gone through some difficult things, and can't be on their own," said Shawna Kemppainen, Executive Director of The Place. "Just this month in May, there was 260 youth experiencing homelessness. One in three of them were living without any shelter."
Alissa Smith with Inside Out Youth Services says the new law will also help LGBTQ+ youth who are over-represented in the foster care system.
"LGBTQ+ youth, especially youth of color are more likely to fall through cracks in the system. They might not have the familial support to access housing, employment, healthcare, especially aging out of the foster care system. So having something like this that's going to give them the support system, give them check-ins and consistent adult contact is going to be so important to them to become successful adults," said Smith.