Guest post from Vivian Rapposelli, Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF):
Over the course of three years (FY 06-09), 355 Delaware youth aged out of the foster care system. For many, this can be an intimidating time in their life as they try to reconcile their new-found freedom with the need to focus on very real, personal issues, without the support from family that most of us have:
Will I get a job? Can I go to school?
How will I get around? Where will I live?
Though there are programs and services available to help youth who age out of foster care, there hasn’t been a unified effort among State agencies to really look at the various needs of these young adults and determine how, as a State, we can better meet those needs and provide them with the necessary supports in order for them to realize success.
Beginning in March, a pilot program began that is aimed at identifying the specific needs of youth aging out of the system, leading to the development of a comprehensive plan to ensure the youth receive appropriate support and services as they transition into adulthood.
Some areas of focus for the pilot are job training, college readiness and access, affordable housing, teen parenting issues and health care.
Joining the Children’s Department in this effort are the Departments of Education, Labor and Health and Social Services, as well as the Delaware State Housing Authority. On August 4, these agencies signed an agreement that outlines our respective roles in providing necessary support and services.
This is a great step forward.
Another step came in the recent signing of Senate Bill 113, which provides extended jurisdiction, through Family Court, of youth aging out of foster care. This is a voluntary mechanism for youth who are provided services under the John H. Chafee Independence Act or the Fostering Connections and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. It allows them to have a legal mechanism for Family Court review of the appropriateness of such services, which are provided from ages 18-21.
Our children are our future, our responsibility. By working collaboratively and providing additional support through our Court system, we are hopeful that they will realize greater success and feel more confident and secure in their new role as adults.
Want to join us to help Delaware children realize success?
Consider becoming a foster parent or adopting one of the many children in Delaware currently looking for a loving home. I encourage you to visit our online Heart Gallery to meet some of these beautiful and charismatic young men and women. Together, we can make a significant impact on their quality of life.