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This time of year we celebrate the accomplishments of graduates who are moving on to new and exciting challenges and opportunities. There is one graduating class this year that should provoke feelings other than celebration. There is no cause for celebration when we look at the number of young people who at the age 18 “graduate” from our poorly performing child welfare system.
This past year 145 Wards of the State were shown the door of our child welfare system without a legal relationship or permanent living arrangement. These young people have a history of trauma, abuse, neglect and having grown up in our child welfare system. Services and supports for the vast majority of Wards ends abruptly and categorically at the arbitrary age of 18. How many of us as parents know that at age 18 most of us are more kid like that adult like. The accepted definition of young adulthood is 20 to 30 years of age.
Two Newport Legislative leaders have introduced legislation that we should celebrate. Representative Deb Ruggiero has introduced The Young Adult Voluntary Extension of Care Act (HB5807) while Senator Lou DiPalma has introduced companion legislation in Senate Bill 0069. The legislation establishes a planning period with DCYF and Family Court with implementation in a year. We cannot wait for the failure of future graduating classes. Investments in job training, stable housing and education are not only just for our graduates but represent a good investment in their future and ours.
President & CEO, Child & Family
About the Young Adult Voluntary Extension of Care:
The Young Adult Voluntary Extension of Care Act (HB5807/S0669) will extend the age of foster care from 18 to 21 in Rhode Island, providing a range of appropriate programs and services to ensure successful transitions into independence and adulthood.
This program is important because youth who exit foster care at age 18 without permanency face challenges in meeting their needs for health care, education, employment housing and emotional supports:
More than 1 in 5 foster youth will become homeless after age 18
1 in 4 will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system
At the age of 24 only half are employed
The negative outcomes of youth exiting foster care at 18 include increased welfare and Medicaid expenditures, higher costs of incarceration, lost wages due to unplanned pregnancies and incarceration, and other costs to our community. By supporting young adults through age 21 we can create better outcomes for overall well-being and supportive adult connections.
About Child & Family:
Established in downtown Newport in 1866, Child & Family is in its 151st year of serving children and families throughout Rhode Island. Child & Family is the largest and most comprehensive social service provider in Newport County, and one of the largest in the State of Rhode Island. With state-of-the-art Community Centers in both Middletown and Providence, Child & Family strengthens the fabric of family by delivering a continuum of evidence-based program and complementary services into homes and communities to thousands of children, teens, families and elders each year. Our supports span the lifespan and are rooted in family preservation. Sandpipers Early Learning Center, Family Preservation Programs, Residential Programs for Children and Teens, Foster Care, and a variety of Elder Care Services.