Rep. Deborah Ruggiero’s proposal to allow children in foster care to continue receiving state services until age 21 has been included in the budget proposal submitted last week by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo.
The proposal (2018-H 7110), which Representative Ruggiero has introduced this year and last, would allow young people who are in the care of the Department of Children, Youth and Families on their 18th birthdays to elect to remain in DCYF care until they turn 21.
Rhode Island allowed the voluntary extension of care to age 21 until 2007, when it was eliminated in the state budget.
“Most teenagers aren’t ready to be adults at the stroke of midnight on their 18th birthday. How many 18-year-olds are prepared and able to get an apartment, pay rent and take care of themselves? Without help and support, it’s extremely difficult for them to graduate high school and successfully go on to college or other training so they have a decent future,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown). “Additionally, the societal costs are great with increased welfare expenditures, higher costs of incarceration, lost wages due to unplanned pregnancies and homelessness. It’s about doing what’s right for kids and let’s stop paying for failure.”
Representative Ruggiero’s legislation creates a voluntary, age-appropriate, court-supervised program of services and resources 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.
Twenty-five states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, Ohio, and California have extended their systems of care to 21 with similar initiatives.
“Any child who is in foster care has already experienced terrible struggles. They deserve so much better than what we’re giving them when they age out of the system. They need a more gradual, prepared transition toward independence and it makes fiscal sense for the state to provide it. Let’s do what is right for our kids and our taxpayers,” said Representative Ruggiero.
Representative Ruggiero introduced the bill Jan. 11, and it is cosponsored by Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston). Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist.12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton) is sponsoring the legislation (2018-S 2022) in the Senate.