Hawaii Extends Foster Care to 21

by Lauren Gonsalves

On July 1, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) signed Senate Bill 1340 into law and effectively extended foster care services until age 21 for the Islands’ dependent population.

Introduced and sponsored by State Senator Clayton Hee, (D),the bill takes advantage of

State Senator Clayton Hee (D) introduced SB1340 and was instrumental in getting it passed. Photo Credit: www.kanuhawaii.org
State Senator Clayton Hee (D) introduced SB1340 and was instrumental in getting it passed. Photo Credit: www.kanuhawaii.org

the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which allows states to claim federal reimbursement for the costs of caring for and supervising Title IV-E eligible foster youth until their 21st birthday.

“We’re sending a message to former foster youth that we will continue to support their transition to adulthood, independence, and self-sufficiency,” said Gov. Abercrombie, in a press release issued after the signing. “Doing so lays the foundation for long-term positive outcomes for youth when they leave foster care.”

The bill, which is set to take effect July 1, 2014, will permit foster youth and former foster youth to continuing receiving services if they fit any of these criteria:

  • 18 and under the temporary or permanent custody of the state
  • Placed in guardianship after age 16
  • Adopted after age 16

Any participating foster youth must also show they are working toward  be enrolled in a secondary education program (or its equivalent), enrolled in a post-secondary or vocational program, be working at least 80 hours per month, enrolled in a program designed to remove barriers to employment or education, or have a medical condition that prevents him or her from fulfilling one of the aforementioned criteria.

The participating youth must also consent to enroll in the extension of services, and a court must find their enrollment in the young adult’s “best interest.”

According to a KidsCount report in 2011, Hawaii had slightly less than 1,200 youth receiving foster care services. It currently ranks as having the sixth lowest number of foster children in the country.

Hawaii joins the ranks of California, Florida and Washington, all of which have passed laws to extend foster care past 18 with federal reimbursement.

To read the bill, click here.

Lauren Gonzalves is a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare. She wrote this story as part of Fostering Media Connections’ Journalism for Social Change program.

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