What happens to foster children in Louisiana when they reach 18 and are on their own? Some have been lucky enough to attend college and prepare for a better future, but others are left to fend for themselves.
The state’s Senate Select Committee on Women and Families last week heard from some of those foster children who fell into both categories, according to a report in The Advocate. Unfortunately, a program aimed at helping all foster children who reach 18 called Louisiana’s Youth Adult Program hasn’t been funded since 2013.
Kayana Bradley, 20, is one of the lucky ones. She was in foster care from age 14 to 18 and is now a student at the University of New Orleans. However, when she turned 18 she had no one to co-sign for her to obtain housing until a volunteer offered to help.
Bradley said foster children often find themselves with nowhere to go and no resources to navigate the real world on their own. She mentioned no instruction on budgeting, banking and knowing where to go for help.
“It truly takes a village to raise a child,” she said.
Taylor Fletcher, 20, is now a student at LSU. He said two of his brothers have been shot and both are in jail.
“It’s so sad that every kid doesn’t end up as lucky as me,” Fletcher said.
Any hopes for future funding to help 18-year-olds leaving foster care were pretty much dashed when the House approved a proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-18. The state Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which supervises the care for 8,000 foster children, is $19.5 million short of what Gov. John Bel Edwards said is needed to meet demands. The loss of federal matching dollars increases the reduction to about $70 million.
Finding homes for foster children continues to be a major problem, and the shortage of department staffers means each worker faces increasing workloads and fewer options. Those who are still there are driving state automobiles that have chalked up more than 150,000 miles.
The DCFS budget that was rewritten by the House requires state departments to eliminate vacant positions before making other reductions. However, that complicates the ability to replace staffers in a department with a high turnover rate.
You would think legislators would give a higher priority to a state department devoted to improving the lives of youngsters who haven’t been as fortunate as most children in this state.