HARRISBURG – The challenges faced by young people as they age out of foster care was the focus of an informational hearing conducted by the House Children and Youth Committee today. Rep. Karen Boback (R-Luzerne/Lackawanna/Wyoming), who chairs the committee, and Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne), who serves as committee vice chair, also held a news conference with stakeholders to discuss legislation that would make improvements to Pennsylvania’s foster care system.
“The money is there. The children are waiting. It’s time to do something,” said Boback. “These young people have so much potential, but without critical support during this transitional time, they face outcomes that can be uncertain, at best.”
“Older youth in foster care make up about 33% (or 8,639) of our system in Pennsylvania and we are not giving them the support and care all young people deserve,” said Jenny Pokempner, Juvenile Law Center senior attorney. “The result is they leave the system as adults not connected with or supported by family and face many challenges, like homelessness.”
During the hearing, committee members heard about the importance of a stable home life, or permanency, from several young people who grew up in the foster care system.
“We believe all youth deserve permanency and supportive adult connections. Both are essential to success in adulthood,” testified Anthony Simpson.
“Ensuring that youth are in safe, caring environments is a key to youth achieving lifelong permanency,” added Lakeema Jones.
“It’s really important to hear their voices, and we heard them loud and clear today,” said Toohil. “There are many things in Pennsylvania that need to change. There are many barriers that we can remove and streams of unused funding that we can access.”
House Bill 1326
, or the Keys to Independence Act, sponsored by Toohil, would create a program to help foster care youth with obtaining driver’s education, training and the costs of maintaining auto insurance.
House Bill 1276
, or the Fostering Independence through Education Act, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-Lancaster/Dauphin), would create a program to assist foster care youth with accessing higher educational opportunities.
House Bill 856
, sponsored by Boback, would reinstate the extension of permanent legal custodian and adoption assistance subsidies to children from age 18 to 21.
“We must meet the challenge to do more and do better by these young people to ensure that they leave the system prepared for success,” said Rachael Miller, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children child welfare policy director.
Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Resolution 335
, sponsored by Toohil, which designates May as Foster Care Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.
Representative Karen Boback
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Scott Little