Foster care kids who want it will get more state support as they move into adulthood as a result of legislation Governor Tom Vilsack signed into law today (Friday). The new, so-called “Preparation for Adult Living” or PALS law, continues foster care assistance after kids reach the age of 18, if they want it.
Sixteen-year-old Kayla Pettit of Norwalk is one of those kids. “I am a foster kid. I’ve been in and out of the foster care system since I was nine or 10,” she says. When Kayla reaches 18, she wants to continue having a “home” with her foster mother.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s awesome because some people have a lot of dreams,” she says. “I have dreams and I want to accomplish them.”
Sixteen-year-old Katie Moore of Ankeny was adopted by her foster family last year and was one of the kids surrounding the governor as he signed the bill for the young adults still in the foster care system. “Aging out of foster care is hard. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories,” Moore says. “It’s going to help them.”
Iowa Department of Human Services director Kevin Concannon says Iowa is the first state in the nation to extend help to foster kids during the formative early-adult years. “Iowa — like most states up to this point in time, up to this very date — when kids turned 18 or graduated from high school, if they were in foster care and had not been adopted they were kind of put out on their own,” Concannon says.
“I’m a parent in my own private life. I didn’t do that with my own four kids at (age) 18, say: ‘See you later. Have a good life.'” If the teenager chooses, their foster care relationship will continue — and they’ll continue to be covered by government-paid Medicare health insurance.
Every 15 months, about five-hundred-50 Iowa kids in the foster care system turn 18, meaning they are no longer eligible for foster support or insurance coverage. The new law continues that support until they’re 21, if they want it.
Concannon says for kids who enter the work world right out of high school, their foster families can help them find a place to live, move in and get their lives “stabilized.” “The majority of these kids have already been through difficult periods in their life. They wouldn’t be in the state’s custody otherwise,” Concannon says. “This really will give them a boost.”