Louisiana Sets Up, But Does Not Yet Fund, Foster Care Up to 21

Louisiana, one of the only five states left with no offer of foster care support beyond age 18, took one important step toward extending care during this legislative session.

S.B. 129, a bill submitted by State Sen. Ryan Gatti (R), sets the legal framework for an extension of foster care until age 21, and it was signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). But the law includes no funds for the increased cost involved, and it only takes effect contingent on funds being provided.

Gatti’s original bill included $1 million to pay for the extension in care, according to his legislative assistant, Robin Fletcher. Those funds were to be drawn from the state’s $6.8 billion piece of the settlement from the British Petroleum oil spill in 2010, she said.

extended foster care
Louisiana State Sen. Ryan Gatti (R) secured a plan, but not yet funding, to extend foster care up to 21

But once the bill was moved out of the state’s Finance Committee, that funding provision was removed and replaced with the “if funded” caveat. It is unclear if appropriators will establish a permanent authorization for the extension or make it an annual determination, which would likely create some planning headaches for the state’s Department of Children and Family Services.

The Louisiana extension plan is pegged entirely to high school graduation or the attainment of an equivalency certificate. A youth can elect to remain in care until they graduated or turned 21, whichever comes first.

Fletcher said they expected the law to offer optional extended care to approximately 200 foster youth.

“You’re still putting them out,” she conceded. “But at least you’re letting them finish high school.”

The Juvenile Law Center recently launched an online, 50-state review of state policies and laws on extended care for foster youth. The review identified five states only five states without any offer of foster care beyond the age of 18: Delaware, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

Of the 45 states with extended care, 26 have received approval for federal funding through the Title IV-E foster care entitlement, which shares the cost of foster care services for youth deemed eligible by federal criteria. The offer of federal support for older youth foster care was included as an optional program in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2008.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1097 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.