Last week I had the opportunity to meet some really stunning young adults. When I originally sponsored the Prudent Parent bill (SB 6479), the advocates explained the nuanced reasoning behind why the legislation is important. It all seemed pretty straight forward to me, which is why I didn’t hesitate to put the bill in the hopper, moving the process from a nice idea, into a bill, on the way to becoming a law.
What I did not realize is what this legislation means in everyday lives of youth in foster care. Did you know that for a youth in foster care to go on a school field trip, to go to a college fair, or to play on a school’s sports team, it is very likely they will have to have their social worker’s signature? Since their foster parent is not their legal guardian, filling out a permission slip is not a straightforward ordeal.
The young adults I met didn’t get their fair shake at high school, but that hasn’t stopped them from finding success. One young man was a rising star on his high school football team with colleges already scouting him in his sophomore year. But when he went into the foster care system at 16, he couldn’t get his waivers for football signed and had to drop off the team. Then he dropped out of high school when he aged out of foster care and didn’t have a place to live. He worked odd jobs to make ends meet, but inevitably fell into homelessness for two years. Today he holds a regular job, lives in an apartment, and is a productive member of our community. Though he is back on his feet, he told me he often wonders what might have been.
The question remains for me: are we going to set these youth up for success while they are in our foster care system, or are we going to limit their chances to live like their peers? The Prudent Parent bill I sponsored is just one more step to setting our foster youth up for success with the chance to grow up like their peers. I am hoping we can pass it this year.