Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday aimed at helping those in Missouri's foster care system.
The legislation would allow older youths to re-enter the foster care system if doing so would be in their best interest. It also requires foster children age 15 and those in the Division of Youth Services program visit a Missouri university, community or technical college or military recruiter. Visits could be waived by the teen's family support team.
Missouri allows people to remain in the foster care system until age 21 but has limited re-entry to those who leave before turning 18 years old. The legislation will allow youths to re-enter until age 21.
Nixon held a bill signing ceremony for the legislation Thursday at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. The governor's office said research indicates those who remain in foster care beyond their 18th birthday do better on the long term. It noted the change was among those recommended by a 2009 task force.
"Young people who exit foster care at age 18, without a strong support system, are at greater risk of homelessness and poverty," Nixon said. "Being on your own at age 18 may sound like a good idea, but sometimes older foster youth need to be able to return to that safety net to make sure they get started on the path to a healthy adulthood and successful life."
One bill was sponsored by Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, and the other was sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City.