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North Dakota Eases Transition from Foster Care to Adulthood

PHOTO: The track from teen to adulthood can be especially tough for those kids who are leaving the foster care system without ever having found a "forever home." Photo credit: Barta IV/Flickr.
PHOTO: The track from teen to adulthood can be especially tough for those kids who are leaving the foster care system without ever having found a "forever home." Photo credit: Barta IV/Flickr.
December 26, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. - As the number of kids in foster care continues to grow in North Dakota, so does the number who have chosen to opt back into the system after turning 18 without having found a "forever home." Since extended foster care first was offered in 2012, around 150 youths have sought out the extra support, says Kelsey Bless, North Dakota Chafee Independent Living Administrator, Children and Family Services Division with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

"The nice thing about that program is if they leave at 18, they have six months to return," she says. "So they might want to have a month or two of some independence and then realize the grass isn't always greener on the other side, so they come back to their former custodian and ask if they can join the 18-plus program again."

As of this year, the number of youths in foster care in North Dakota has grown to more than 1,300, of which about 90 will age out of the system.

Bless says another key piece of support with that transition from a childhood in foster care to an adult are the education-and-training vouchers that are available to youths who leave the system.

"It really does pave the way for them to have financial stability to attend school," Bless says. "It could be a trade school. It could be a two-year, four-year college, as long as they meet our eligibility for it. This could be up to $5,000 a year to help with education opportunities."

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND