Senator Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2018-S 2022Aaa) that would create a young adult voluntary extension of care program to extend the age of foster care from age 18 to age 21 was passed by the Rhode Island Senate tonight.  The program would offer a range of programs and services to ensure successful transitions to independence and adulthood for young adults in foster care.

“This bill gives our kids in care of the state the best possible shot to become happy, functional, and productive adults in our society.  The data clearly demonstrates that without this program, these kids face tremendous obstacles toward adulthood, including homelessness, joblessness, teen pregnancy and incarceration which is extremely costly to the society as a whole and specifically the state.  These children deserve a fair shot in life.  They did not ask for the hardships they have suffered during childhood, and this program can provide the safety net so many of them desperately need,” said Senator DiPalma in a news release.

Rhode Island previously offered extended care to foster children up to 21 years old but the program was scaled back to 18 years old in 2007, according to the release.

The legislation calls for a voluntary, age appropriate, court-supervised program of services and resources to be implemented and the proposal is specifically designed for young adults to maximize their self-determination and support their movement toward self-sufficiency.  The bill does not hold young adults in the same system that they were in as children, but incorporates national best practice to meet their needs as emerging young adults.  And, with this new approach, we’ll be able to leverage federal funding to offset state investments.

Twenty-four states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, Ohio, and California have extended their systems of care to 21 with similar initiatives.

Rep. Deborah L. Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) has introduced the legislation (2018-H 7110) in the House of Representatives.