Editorial: Jindal budget cuts kill delicate program

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.

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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.