Regarding the Sept. 19 Point of View “One legislative victory – support for well-being of kids”: We congratulate the General Assembly on its unanimous passage of the Foster Care Family Act in North Carolina, drawing attention to the needs of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our state: the 9,000 children growing up in foster care.
Here in Wake County, a collaboration among several agencies has developed to address the well-being of children who turn 18 while they are in foster care. Historically, these teens have been “emancipated,” released from foster care and left without resources to address their own housing, employment, education and personal challenges. Most of these children lack the support networks and safety nets many teens take for granted. Combined with the upheaval of separation from their families of origin and frequent transitions from home to home, many are unprepared to face challenges of daily living.
Legislation increasing the voluntary age of foster care from 18 to 21 is a positive step, in line with current thinking on human brain development that indicates full maturity doesn’t occur for many people until their mid-20s.
The Hope Center at Pullen, SAFEchild, Wake County Human Services, PLM Families Together, Wake Tech Community College and EDSI have combined their expertise with the financial leadership of the United Way of the Greater Triangle to demonstrate a creative approach to supporting youth aging out of foster care. This partnership includes housing support, educational and employment resources, health care and the recent addition of a parenting program designed to keep future generations from entering foster care at all.
Sen. Tamara Barringer’s leadership in the General Assembly has demonstrated that the political will exists in North Carolina to improve outcomes for these children. Barringer, a former SAFEchild board member, has always taken a special interest in the well-being of children in our community, and her legislation puts in place some common-sense approaches that have immediate impact on North Carolina’s foster care population.
We in the collaborative are hopeful that with new attention focused on our program participants, Wake County agencies will provide leadership for other organizations across the state seeking a new approach to the well-being of children aging out of foster care.
Executive director, SAFEchild
Executive director, The Hope Center at Pullen
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.