|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
I recently joined other lawmakers at a public hearing convened by the House Human Services and Children and Youth committees to learn about the challenges faced by children in foster care as they transition into adulthood.
Among those who testified was a woman who was terrified when she “aged out” of the foster care system after turning 18.
“Housing was my greatest issue, as I bounced from family to friends’ houses,” she said. ‘Things didn’t seem to ever work out in my favor. Without a stable home, I couldn’t keep a job. Without a stable job, I couldn’t pay bills or get enrolled in college.”
Pennsylvania’s foster care system is critical to supporting children in need. The hearing helped us better understand the enormous challenges faced when those children turn into young adults and are on their own. The transition can be a harsh one for many.
JR Kenny, director of government relations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, testified that one-in-four young adults who leave foster care experience homelessness and struggle with mental health challenges such as depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders.
Dawn Holden Woods, CEO of Turning Points for Children, the leading foster care case management agency in Philadelphia, projects 250 youth ages 17-22 will “age out” of the foster care system in the city.
Woods argued that young adults need programs to help them address family/support system issues, as well as teach them independent living skills, so that they can learn the tools to build stable, successful adult lives.
One of those programs is Turning Points for Children, a group that links with private organizations to help young adults in foster care achieve their goals in housing, employment and education.
All options should be considered in helping foster children transition into adulthood. Committee members at the hearing will now take what we learned and share it with all House members as we develop legislation to help these kids in need.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office