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Our Opinion: Lawmakers advance foster care provision

Our Opinion: Lawmakers advance foster care provision

May 15th, 2013 in News

Amid the whirlwind of legislative activity during this session's final week, lawmakers have approved a compassionate measure to ease turmoil for some young people.

The House on Monday approved and advanced to the governor a bill that will allow children older than age 18 who leave foster care to re-enter the system and remain until age 21.

House passage, on a 150-9 vote, follows unanimous Senate approval earlier this year.

Although children may remain in foster care until age 21, existing law prohibits them from re-entering the system if they leave after age 18.

State Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said the change will permit children to return to foster care if they have trouble in the "real world."

DeAnna Alonso, executive director of the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association, said: "This bounce-back pass Missouri is offering foster care youth will no doubt create a positive economic impact for our economy.

"These kids have no support when leaving the system that raised them," she added. "Due to the lack of resources, mentorship, food and housing options, foster youth leave the system and become homeless, incarcerated or dead within a few short months. The legislation is a catalyst for creating strong, healthy Missouri citizens and curbing these horrendous outcomes. We owe it to Missouri orphans to set them up for success."

The transition from foster care to the real world is not only a concern for the association, it is the namesake of the group's Transitions program.

The program is designed to help children complete high school and provide them the opportunity to pursue higher education, in part by matching the foster child with a mentor to help ease the transition.

The legislative action enhances the local association's celebration of Foster Care Awareness Month, observed throughout May.

The group and a fellow non-profit organization, One Simple Wish, will host a Foster Family Appreciation Day on Saturday for invited guests.

The foster care association also is sponsoring two fundraising activities and swim wear drive later this month. Details are in a story published in Tuesday's Local section.

Foster and adoptive families fill a valuable role by devoting their time and providing attention, affection and guidance to children.

The Foster Care and Adoption Association facilitates partnerships among youth, families, the community and government agencies and services.

We applaud lawmakers for making time during this hectic final week to improve the lives and prospects of Missouri's foster children.