State lawmakers are considering two bills that would extend Washington’s foster care coverage from 18-years-old to 21-years-old.
House Bill 1302 and Senate Bill 5405 are supported by several lawmakers, but Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services is concerned about possible costs to the state.
Both bills aim to help the 500 troubled foster teens who “age out” of the state system once they turn 18 every year, advocates said at a Thursday legislative hearing in Olympia. Many of those youths end up homeless, with no support system to depend on.
“If I had a network of caring foster parents and experienced counselors while in stable housing, instead of a support structure of homeless youth and drugs, I would have learned recovery a lot sooner than I did,” said former foster child Chris Bauer.
Bauer was one of many former foster youths who testified Thursday.
“This will help address the dismal outcomes for children that have aged out of foster care without a permanent home,” said Patrick Dowd from the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman.
Washington DSHS, while supportive of the proposal, has expressed reservations about the bills. It estimates the cost of extending foster care will reach $14.9 million by 2015 and $12.6 million in 2017.
Federal funding is supposed to cover most of the costs, but DSHS officials are not sure if the legislation is broad enough to qualify for those dollars. DSHS is currently trying to clarify the legal and resource impact on the state.