Rhode Island May Extend Foster Care Until 21 (Again)

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s new budget plan includes funding for children in foster care to continue receiving state support after they turn 18, which would mark a return to the state’s approach before the Great Recession.

Eligible 18-year-olds will be able to stay in foster care and request assistance until age 21, and receive benefits like job training, housing assistance and help with applying for other public benefits. 

The proposal is coupled with a bill introduced in the statehouse in early January by the state Representative Deborah Ruggiero (D), and would re-start a policy that had existed in the state until 2007.

Budget shortfalls prompted the elimination of Rhode Island’s extended care for youth just a year before the federal government offered to match states in such efforts. In 2008, George W. Bush signed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, permitting states to extend care to 21 with federal reimbursement through the Social Security Act’s funding for foster care.  

The optional extension is an attempt to lengthen the runway to adulthood for the approximately 20,000 foster youth who “age out” at 18 without having found a permanent living situation, via adoption by their foster parents, for example. According to the state policy think tank the National Conference of State Legislators, 24 states and the District of Columbia now have policies like the one under consideration in Rhode Island.

The year after Rhode Island ended its extension, the number of youth aging out at 18 reached a peak of 158.

Rhode Island used to do this until 2007, and then we cut the services,” said Raimondo, to a Rhode Island NBC news affiliate. “And since then, we’ve seen that wasn’t a good decision.”

The administration estimates the long-term additional costs to taxpayers will be minimal, and will immediately serve up to 70 youth this year. 

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Michael Fitzgerald, New York Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Michael Fitzgerald, New York Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 104 Articles
New York Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at mfitzgerald@chronicleofsocialchange.org or follow on Twitter at @mchlftzgrld.