The age older youth could re-enter foster care would be raised from 18 to 21 under new legislation approved by the Missouri Senate on Thursday.
Currently foster children can remain in the state’s care until 21 years old, but are only allowed re-entry before turning 18. Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City), who sponsored the bill, says correcting this loophole would give foster youth an opportunity to receive additional support through the state.
She says children who leave the system too early and cannot return often face homelessness, imprisonment, and premature pregnancy.
“Everything shows that those kids who stay in the system and use those resources that are available to them are less likely to have those bad outcomes,” said Justus. “It is our hope that by doing this we’re actually going to take some really vulnerable kids and make sure that they get everything that they need so that they can get started on their adult life on the right foot.”
DeAnna Alonso, executive director of the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association, applauds the senator’s efforts in proposing this new piece of legislation.
“We’re just really excited to see that Sen. Jolie Justus stood on the frontlines to fight for these older youth,” said Alonso. “The state is ultimately their guardians, and we need to make sure that these kids are safe, successful and able to live on their own before they emancipate out of foster care.”
Justus said the Department of Social Services estimates extending the age limit will cost the state less than $100,000 each year, but can change depending on how many children utilize the services.
“We do know that there are up to 237 kids that left the system last year,” said Alonso. The evidence shows in states where this happens that even though several people leave early, very few actually come back.”
Although the bill still awaits the governor’s final seal of approval, Justus says she is confident it will become law since there was no opposition in the Senate.