Task Force Explains Why New Supplemental Budget is Important Despite its Detractor in the House

Statement from Massachusetts Task Force on Youth Aging Out on S.40/Ch.359

Sweeping changes were made for older foster youth when Governor Deval Patrick signed the Supplemental Budget (Chapter 359 of The Acts of 2010) last Friday. In addition to changing judicial oversight for youths aged 18-22, ensuring their access to all available services, $5 million in federal funding will be coming to the Commonwealth. In response to this important news, Amanda Rodriguez, Director, Massachusetts Task Force on Youth Aging Out of Department of Children and Families (DCF) Care and Task Force Co-Chairs Joan Wallace-Benjamin, President and CEO, The Home for Little Wanderers, and Maria Mossaides, Executive Director, Cambridge Family & Children’s Services, released the following statement:

“This bill is a major victory for The Task Force and for all who have been working on behalf of this often vulnerable population. In tough economic times, additional Federal funding is critical and greatly appreciated. These youth have often have very few resources and lack the personal supports they need on their journey to adulthood. This funding will support additional services to help youth to overcome the significant hurdle of moving beyond state care.”

Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Worcester & Middlesex) sponsored the original bill (S.40) that incorporated language into Chapter 359. The Massachusetts Task Force on Youth Aging Out of DCF Care is a broad-based coalition of more than 40 representatives from government agencies, private child welfare and human services providers and other organizations involved in helping youth who are transitioning out of state care.

Chapter 359 will extend much-needed services for the 500-700 youth who age out of foster care each year in Massachusetts. Studies show that former foster youth experience many more difficulties than their peers, with higher rates of homelessness, unemployment, and teen pregnancy. “The majority of people who endure the process of aging out of the foster care system experience negative life outcomes,” said State Senator Flanagan, who in addition to being the Bill’s sponsor, holds a masters degree in mental health counseling and is the only member of the 200-person Massachusetts Legislature who has had direct experience working with youth in residential care. “It’s no secret that kids in foster care who have no family to return to or a responsible adult to help them transition into adulthood face far more challenges.”

Chapter 359 will provide an unprecedented opportunity for Massachusetts to receive Federal funding for youth who reach their 18th birthday, or “age out,” while still in foster care. Juvenile Courts will be able to maintain jurisdiction over a youth until their 22nd birthday if he or she chooses to continue in the Department of Child & Family Services care and will give youth the right to counsel. Chapter 359 further mandates that youth be provided with a personalized transition plan during the 90-day period before leaving care, which must be developed with the youth by a DCF caseworker and, if appropriate, representatives who work closely with the youth. The plan must address housing, health insurance, education, and local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, employment services and workforce supports.

About the Task Force on Youth Aging Out of DCF Care
Led by Task Force Director, Amanda Rodriguez and Co-Chairs, Joan Wallace-Benjamin, President and CEO, The Home for Little Wanderers, and Maria Mossaides, Executive Director, Cambridge Family and Children’s Services, the Task Force on Youth Aging Out of the Department of Children and Families Care is a multi-agency group formed in 2002 to develop new strategies for improving the outcomes experienced by youth transitioning from DCF Care.

About Chapter 359 (Sections 18-22)
In 2008, in one of the last acts of bipartisanship that came out of Washington, the Democratic Congress and the Republican President worked together on The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351) that not only addresses the needs of these vulnerable youth, but actually helps states pay for the services. States were given 24 months to meet compliance with Federal rule in order to be eligible for matching funds. The changes to state law made in Chapter 359, sections 18-22, will result in Massachusetts receiving much as $5 million annually in Fostering Connections funding.



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