Every year, too many youth age out of the foster care system without being prepared. Too many leave the system with an unfinished education, limited resources, and inadequate social skills to live on their own. The result is that too many end up homeless or in the court systems.
The state of Louisiana is looking for a solution to this problem. A bill presented by the Senate Finance Committee hopes to aid in this situation as reported in this newspaper article. The current law states that youth age out of the system in Louisiana at age 18. If this bill gets passed, the age would be extended to age 21 or whenever a high school degree is achieved, whichever is first.
Obtaining that milestone, a high school degree or a GED will give foster children a better chance for a successful life. But this program comes with a price: about a million dollars a year to fund. Proponents of this bill are requesting to use funds coming from the BP Oil spill, which is $50 million dollars yearly for the next ten years. But there are many other government entities such as child and adult protective services, that could benefit from those funds as well. Senator LaFleur stated in an article done by the New Orleans Public Radio, “We’ve got a lot of folks out there who are in this same boat, and we have to pick and choose sometimes winners and losers.”
This is a very controversial issue for all because there are so many deserving agencies that are in need of funding. Where could the money best be used? There are too many stories about the youth in care having nothing when they age out of the foster care system. They have no or very limited guidance, education, experiences, or skills to function as an “adult.” Does the additional time—while it does come at a cost to the state—overpower the financial cost of the price of these youth from homelessness, prison, or both? This Louisiana bill is headed to the Senate floor for voting.