A sleepout named after a young man who died after aging out of the state’s foster care system, was expected to draw more than a thousand participants in Des Moines Friday night. The event at Drake University, honors Reggie Kelsey – who bounced around homeless shelters after leaving foster care in 2001.
Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kevin Concannon says 18 year olds are now encouraged to sign up for a post-foster care program called "PALS." He says in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois – up to one-quarter of the kids that leave foster care end up homeless within the first year.
"They’re ill-prepared to be on their own," Concannon says, "so we have been encouraging kids to stay with us and let us try to help you." Concannon says Reggie’s death prompted the agency to adopt new safety nets for foster kids after they turn 18.
Concannon says the state can now provide assistance with job and apartment hunting or financial aid for college. He says Iowa has also extended healthcare coverage under medicaid until they turn 21. Concannon says about 550 young people "age out" of the foster care system every year.