By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Foster youths will no longer have to be on their own once they turn 18.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill into law last week that allows children in foster care to continue to receive help from social services into young adulthood.
The new program, available up until the age of 21, is intended to help them transition to being independent adults.
Participants in the voluntary program will be eligible for the state’s independent living services, which include job skills development, educational support services, emergency housing, as well as other services, a state Department of Human Services spokeswoman said in an email.
During the last fiscal year, 93 youths “aged out” of foster care, according to DHS. Twenty-four of them were from Hawaii County.
The department is expecting between 135 and 175 youths to participate in the program.
A fiscal analysis projected the extension will cost the state $1,088,790, according to DHS.
The bill received the support of Oahu HI H.O.P.E.S., which serves foster children.
“The passage of this bill means that foster youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood will not have to be forced to fend for themselves without any type of support,” said Gernani Yutob, president of the Oahu HI H.O.P.E.S. Youth Leadership Board, in a press release.
The group’s board includes current and former foster children between the ages of 14 and 26.
Young adults who have already aged out of foster care will be eligible for the program. So will those who were adopted after the age of 16.
To be eligible, a participant must either be completing secondary education, employed for at least 80 hours per month, or participating in a program to assist them with gaining employment.
On average, there are about 1,076 children in foster care each month.
In Hawaii County, 514 children went in and out of foster care during the last fiscal year, according to DHS.
Eighteen other states have a similar program.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.