COLUMBUS – On May 25, the Ohio Senate voted unanimously to pass Amended Substitute House Bill 50. The bill creates a new program to serve youth who age out of foster care, and those adopted after age 16, through their 21st birthdays.
“Some of Ohio’s most vulnerable young people can celebrate the prospects of a brighter future,” said Mark Mecum, chair, Ohio Fostering Connections. “With the passage of House Bill 50, Ohio can begin the process of launching a program of core support services to help youth who age out of foster care to bridge more successfully to adulthood. We applaud Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, Rep. Cheryl Grossman and Sen. John Eklund for championing this important legislation.”
Each year, more than 1,000 Ohio youth “age out” of foster care at age 18. House Bill 50 includes a package of programs to help these young people prepare for college or a career, as well as transitional housing options, including apartment programs, campus housing, and foster and host homes.
The bill and was introduced in February 2015 and passed by the House of Representatives in December 2015. The House’s concurrence occurred yesterday evening, and the bill is now expected to go to Gov. John Kasich for signature. Foster care advocates and state officials will begin a planning phase in July. The program is expected to be implemented in approximately 18 months.
This investment ultimately will save taxpayer dollars. According to national figures, on average, for every young person who ages out of foster care without continued support, communities pay $300,000 in social costs over that person’s lifetime.
Research indicates that foster care alumni are at high risk of homelessness, unemployment, insufficient education, dependence on public assistance, human trafficking, incarceration and other devastating outcomes.
Michael Outrich is one of the former foster youth who testified as a proponent of House Bill 50. “Throughout the last few years I have watched and witnessed my fellow brothers and sisters of the foster care system struggle. I’ve experienced days of discouragement when I faced obstacles with no parental support, and no idea of what resources might exist to help me,” Outrich said in his testimony. “Improving outcomes matters – and I am confident that extending services and supports through proper case management, housing, and a support system can and will improving outcomes for our population.”
More than 30 other individuals and groups provided testimony supporting the legislation during hearings in the House and Senate. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is among the bill’s proponents. The legislation also received support from the Canton Repository, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Columbus Dispatch.
The Ohio Fostering Connections initiative is more than six years in the making and utilizes a proven approach. Similar programs in 26 other states are showing benefits including higher levels of educational attainment and employment, and lower levels of homelessness and incarceration. The Ohio legislation taps federal funds available through the Fostering Connection to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 to defray approximately two-thirds of the costs.