There are a lot of issues in the American Foster Care system that many of us don’t see. Dustin Moore, 19 years old, is an example of someone who is trying to balance a lot in his life; what he wants to do as a career, but also how he’s going to survive when he’s out of the foster care system (age 21).
What We Know:
- Worrying about the future and a career is extremely hard to focus on when you need to focus on the absolute basics of living, such as a place to live along with food and housing bills. He was hoping to save up some before going to college. That way, “I had more of my own money saved up. Cause I don’t want to worry about getting a loan.”
- Signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on June 28, the Fostering Independence Through Education Act waives tuition for youth who were in foster care at age 16 or older, including those who have “aged out” of the system or been adopted at an older age.
- This change can really open up options for foster care kids by giving them choices and opportunities. Trying to get a loan, and worrying about one, is the last thing that these people need.
- “If you’re in foster care, I bet you any amount of money that at one point in your life you were told that you were going to be nothing,” Moore said. “You can go to college and prove that person wrong. It opens up a whole new world for us.”
- With this new act, public, private, and community Pennsylvania colleges/universities will be accepting the waivers for fall 2020. The waiver includes college application fees as well.
- There were some concerns about the restrictions or the logistics of how one would stay qualified for this waiver. Although it’s still currently in the works (although once taken into place, all the details will be posted on Juvenile Law Center’s website), it seems that the waiver would exclude room and board, can be used for up to five years or until a student reaches age 26, the student must have a high school diploma (from either GED or the inclass track), maintain “satisfactory academic progress” (although that has not been defined yet), and students would be required to use all available financial aid, such as grants and scholarships first, and then the waiver would see the rest.
- This waiver would also have a program embedded that would help foster kids with the difficult transition to college. An advisor-like person would help them find their way. This person’s sole job would help them with the financial aid process along with helping to find the right support systems for them on campus.
- What might seem a little excessive to those who haven’t been in the system, university or college is exponentially more difficult without a family or a support system waiting for you back home. Elyse Coldren, a counselor at Valley Youth House in Bethlehem, explains it as, “these youth lack a safety net. Most don’t have the full freedom of a typical teenager. They have restrictions in foster homes. That can make for a difficult transition.”
With the upcoming Act coming into place soon, Pennsylvania will be with the 28 other states that allow foster kids to attend college tuition-free. Hopefully, this new Act will encourage foster kids to think about college more seriously now that it isn’t completely out of reach.