This is such amazing news! Now older kids can be adopted and have their benefits continue through age 21. So awesome!
TALLAHASSEE –Florida lawmakers today approved monumental legislation that redesigns the foster care independent living program. The Florida House today took up and approved Senate Bill 1036, sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert. The Florida Senate on Friday renamed the legislation to the “Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act” and voted 38-0 in favor of the bill. The bill passed the House today on a vote of 116-1.
The legislation is backed by the Department of Children and Families and is based on recommendations made by the Independent Living Services Advisory Council (ILSAC). It will give young adults the option to remain in foster care until the age of 21 in order to finish high school, earn a GED, pursue post-secondary education or begin a career. The bill strengthens the role of foster parents, restructures the Road-to-Independence Program and empowers caregivers to provide high quality, nurturing parenting for children in foster care.
“I want to thank the Florida Legislature, especially bill sponsors Sen. Detert and Rep. Perry, for passing this landmark piece of legislation that will change the lives of countless youth who age out of foster care,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. “With this legislation, which is truly the voice of our young people, our youth will have the same opportunity as our own children to be successful adults.”
Young people who age out of foster care face significant challenges as they make the transition to adulthood on their own. Currently, nearly 3,000 young adults are receiving Independent Living services.
Last fall, Secretary Wilkins appointed 18 new members to the ILSAC and named a new director of Independent Living Services to overhaul the program. The Council called for the redesign of the state program and expanding foster care from age 18 to age 21 after survey results showed many challenges and successes for children in foster care and those who have aged out.
“The Council is committed to continuing to seek ways to redesign the program to help youth in foster care and young adults who have aged out have the best chance of success in life,” said Bob Garner, Chair of Florida’s ILSAC. “We appreciate Secretary Wilkins putting forth our recommendations as a legislative priority and the many advocates and lawmakers who supported this bill.”
The independent living bill is the second of two DCF legislative priorities to improve outcomes for children in foster care passed during the 2013 Legislative Session. The “Letting Kids be Kids” bill, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Ben Albritton, was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott on April 11. The new law empowers foster parents to make day-to-day decisions for foster children in their care and reduces regulations that are barriers for kids in foster care to enjoy participation in extracurricular, enrichment or social activities.
For more information on Independent Living services to youth aging out of the foster care system, please visit http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/independent-living