South Carolina is considering joining the many states that tap federal foster care funds to help young adults make a smoother transition to independent adulthood.
House Bill 3509, sponsored chiefly by state Rep. Russell Fry (R), had previously passed the House, and last week it cleared a key Senate committee with the support of the state Department of Social Services.
More than two dozen other states have passed similar measures since 2008, when the Fostering Connections Act was enacted, according to the Child Welfare League of America. States with approved Title IV-E funding for extended foster care for those aged 18 to 21 include California, Hawaii, New York and North Dakota.
Under the South Carolina bill, certain youth who are still in the custody of the Department of Social Services on their 18th birthday could continue to receive services and support until they turn 21. Those eligible include youth enrolled in college, a credential or vocational education program, youth who work at least 80 hours each month or disabled youth, among others. The act would go into effect upon approval by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and is contingent upon general appropriations funding.
Children age out of foster care at age 18. But currently, youth in these circumstances have access to some state-funded services to smooth the transition to independence. The federal money included in HB 3509 would enable more robust support. Local news station WSPA, citing DSS figures, reported that there are 177 youth in the state’s voluntary program.
Tori Shuler, advocacy director of the South Carolina nonprofit Fostering Great Ideas, said the program would pay dividends for state taxpayers by improving the odds that former foster youth will be able to support themselves within a few years.
“We’re just gonna have better outcomes and when we have better outcomes it’s better for everyone in the state. That means people are able to be self-sufficient and they can roll off support,” Shuler said in a statement.