State lawmakers pass bill to expand eligible age for children in Foster Care system

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State lawmakers passed a bill to rescue children who age-out of Louisiana Foster Care System with no high-school diploma, no home and nowhere to go.

The bill extends the age from 18 to now 21 years-old.

Senate Bill-129 was proposed this Spring by Senator Ryan Gatti to help children aging out of the system. With the state facing a major budget crisis, it initially seemed destined for failure.

Moving statements from foster kids and families is what pushed the bill forward. A representative from the Department of Children and Family Services stated that about 180 children age out of the foster care system before finishing high-school. Of those, 20% end up in jail and 25% end up homeless. Foster mom, Mary Batiste, has a daughter aging out this year. She said these kids are not ready to live independently by the age of 18.

“18, as far as I’m concerned, is still a baby. They still need knowledge and understanding and direction,” said Mary Batiste. “21… I’m not saying they fully understand, but at least they’re going in that direction with guidance as well.. but 18, they’re still a baby,” she added.

SB129 is the first of its kind supported by the Senate Finance Committee. Expanding the age will cost almost $1-million annually. That cost is matched with $3-million from the Federal Government.

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