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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Editorial: Jindal budget cuts kill delicate program

Last Modified: Friday, July 19, 2013 5:17 PM Gov. Bobby Jindal’s axe has claimed another program, this one geared to help teenagers and young adults in foster care transition out of the program.

With its annual $1.2 million funding eliminated, the Youth Adult Program that has served those clients that have aged-out of the state’s foster care will be eliminated.

Department of Children and Family Services which oversees the state’s foster care program said Louisiana’s budget squeeze and a drive to make foster care a more temporary situation sounded the death knell for YAP.

DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier said the goal is to ensure that those who turn 18 and no longer qualify for foster care have permanent connections long before they age out.

‘‘We’ve got to continue to do a better job in explaining the resources that are out there for kids,’’ she told The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

YAP currently serves 153 youths statewide. According to DCFS, 91 of the 201 foster care clients who turned 18 last year took advantage of YAP.

Proponents said the money helped foster care clients on the verge of aging out of the program pay for housing and necessities while they either completed high school graduation requirements or entered college.

East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Richey said the end of the program could cause some clients to become homeless.

‘‘There are kids that are already engaged in the program, making progress in education and making progress toward healthy, independent lives, and they’re going to be dropped like hot potatoes,’’ said Richey.

DCFS Brent Villemarett Deputy Secretary for Programs disputed Richey, saying that YAP clients still in high school will continue to receive financial aid until an alternate plan is up and running. He said help could come from the Louisiana Housing Corp. and the Louisiana Workforce Commission. He said other options include scholarships, education grants, housing assistance and loans.

This seems to be a particularly cruel fate for foster care youngsters, most of whom have wound up in the program through no fault of their own. While foster care provides a vital safety net, in many instances it remains a substitute for a family’s care for its children.

Dissolving this program represents a disservice to them.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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