Monday, March 16, 2009
My name is Lisa Dickson and I am the co-founder and Communications Chair of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.
Speaking on behalf of former foster children throughout the state, many of whom, like myself, are tax-paying professionals, Ohio’s proposed biennual budget causes us great concern.
At a time when the needs of foster care youth transitioning to adulthood are being recognized on federal level through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, Ohio has chosen to cut the TANF-Independent Living Allocation by 100%. This important allocation provides $2.5 M/year to connect youth aging out of foster care with life skills training and work supports.
Approximately 1,000 Ohio teenagers emancipate from the foster care each year. Because they have no families to rely upon, these young people are at greater risk of poverty, homelessness, unwed pregnancy and incarceration.
Foster care youth transitioning to adulthood are not a 'line item.' They are children who rely on the state to be their “parent.” They are teenagers entering into adulthood during a recession. Ohio taxpayers will pay for their needs, whether now or later.
Research by the Children’s Advocacy Institute has shown that early investment leads to foster care youth being three times more likely to enroll in college, 65% less likely to be arrested, and a 33% reduction in unwed pregnancy.
According to Dr. Mark Courtney of the Chapin Hall Center for Children, “Every $1 invested in continued foster care supports and services results in a return of $2.40."
It makes better economic sense to intervene during their late-teens and early-20s, a time when young people have an open mind, high level of energy and are actively engaged in the process of directing their future lives.
Zeroing out the TANF-IL funding will led more foster care youth into situations of chronic homelessness, unwed pregnancy, unemployment and incarceration. Left unchecked, the cycle will continue: 1 in 4 homeless adults is a former foster child.