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OH Budget Proposal Bridges Gap from Foster Care to Adulthood

June 7, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - More than $2 million could help Ohio's foster youth find their way in the "real world," but only if the state Senate budget passes. Lawmakers are proposing the additional funding for programs that assist teens as they transition out of foster care and learn to live as independent adults.

Wright State University student Adrian McLemore says foster youth often walk alone on the rough road from their teen years to young adulthood - and he knows, because he aged out of the system in 2004.

"The system kind of says, 'All right, here's your bags, good luck in life,' without any really clear direction as to where they go from there, whether we're preparing them to go to college or go to a vocational or technical school, or just asking them to function as a productive citizen."

McLemore says funding for foster youth needs to be flexible, because their individual situations vary.

"Everyone has different needs and different responsibilities. Some people who come out of foster care have maybe further developed on down the road, and so we may not need to allocate as much services towards them. And then, we have young people who may need a lot of resources. "

The director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Michael Colbert, has met with many of Ohio's foster youth, and says he is impressed with their resilience. He adds that it's crucial to prioritize support for their future success.

"These are very good young people. They've had some tough times and, by giving them a small bridge to help them better themselves in life, we are making Ohio as a whole better, and this goes a long way for such a little investment."

Colbert points out that today's foster teens are Ohio's future citizens and leaders, and that by supporting them now, they won't need other types of support in the future.

"What you don't want is young people to leave our system and come back, right back in another system. You want them to leave our system and go on to become productive citizens in life."

The money in the Senate budget proposal would provide resources and support to help improve outcomes for these adolescents, such as job training, housing assistance and basic life skills. Each year in Ohio, more than 1,000 teens age out of foster care when they turn 18.

The Senate could vote on the budget as early as next week.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH