Under the Dome

Bill would extend foster care benefits

Some youths in foster care would be able to receive benefits until they are 21 years old, rather than the current 18, under a proposal the state Senate is considering.

Current law allows for full-time students to receive benefits until they reach 21. Senate Bill 424 would expand eligibility to include those in foster care who are completing a high school diploma or general education degree, are enrolled in college or a vocational program, participate in an employment program, are working at least 80 hours a month, or are incapable of meeting any of those requirements due to a medical condition or disability.

Foster care youths who receive benefits and who are older than 18 could be approved to live away from their foster family to live in a college dormitory or other “semi-supervised” housing.

Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Republican from Cary, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that research shows that foster children who are suddenly on their own once they reach 18 are more likely to commit crimes, be on public assistance and find themselves homeless.

She said there are about 500 youths each year who age out of foster care in North Carolina.

The bill would set aside increased spending to pay for the additional benefits. The Senate judiciary committee unanimously approved the bill, which will now go to a budget committee.