|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
During the current legislative session in the House of Representatives, the House Children and Youth Committee, on which I serve as vice-chair, has made it a priority to focus on policy initiatives that improve Pennsylvania’s foster and adoption systems. I believe these children deserve nothing less.
In recent weeks, legislation that came through the committee has been signed into law. The three new laws include:
- Act 14 of 2019, which promotes the placement in adoptive homes of children who have disabilities or are otherwise hard to place due to age, sibling relationships or ethnicity. The law allows family members who are granted permanent legal custodianship for qualified children up to 21 years of age to receive subsidies for their care.
- Act 16 of 2019, which assists children in the foster care system with the challenges of accessing higher education opportunities by creating a tuition and fee waiver option for youth in foster care, who were adopted from the foster care system, or have aged out of foster care. Statistics indicate only 50% of foster youth graduate from high school, only 20% go to college and less than 10% complete their postsecondary education.
- Act 47 of 2019, which simplifies the process for certain adoptions by allowing a prison employee to serve as a witness to the completion of an adoption consent form by an incarcerated birth parent. If a second witness is unavailable, the new law allows the consent to be acknowledged before a notary public. Under prior law, potential adoptions were delayed for months, leaving the child stuck in the system rather than under the care of adoptive parents. I was the prime sponsor of Act 47.
I am also the prime sponsor of another proposal currently under committee review. House Bill 1326
, or the Keys to Independence Act would create a program to help foster care youth with obtaining driver’s education, training and the costs of maintaining auto insurance.
In addition, I was the sponsor of a resolution that designated May as Foster Care Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office