Louisiana is working to extend foster care services up to age 21. The state is set to receive $3 million in grants over the next three years to help young adults transition out of the foster care system.
More than 175 youth each year “age out” of the state’s foster care system at the age of 18.
“At the age of 18 most of our teenagers will not have graduated and that’s not enough time,” says Barbara Calais.
Calais has provided care for 165 foster children over the last 30 years. When service is cut off at age 18 she says, “The future looks mighty grim. You are 18, no education, no high school education, definitely no trade skill and in most cases you were homeless.”
In 2008 most of the state’s young adult programs lost funding. Yet nearly 30 other states have extended the age of foster care.
Legislation that past this spring is giving momentum to extend the age here in Louisiana. “Extending the age to 21 is the start, it’s a positive start. I really think you need homes where there’s people who can work with young adults, and teach them the basics,” says Calais.
The state panel on extending the age of foster care started work in August.
The panel will review work underway in other states and design a program to best benefit the Louisiana youth who “age out” of the foster care system when they turn 18.
The taskforce will issue its first report to the legislature in February.