A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services says a program that helps kids who have turned to old to be eligible for foster care is getting good marks. Once a kid turns 18 they have “aged out” of the foster care system, but D.H.S. spokesman Roger Munns says they still need some support.
“When out own kids turn 18 we don’t say ‘Happy Birthday and have a nice day we’ll see ‘ya later, keep in touch,’ instead we say ‘Happy Birthday’ but lets see what we can do to continue our support for you,” Munns says. Munns says the Preparation for Adult Living or “PAL” program provides some money to those who’re working and going to school along with a mentor.
Munns says a survey shows a great majority of them are doing “pretty well” and have a safe place to live, they’ve resources to meet their needs, and they appreciate the mentors assigned to them. He says the mentors are a key resource in helping the participants adjust to adult life.
Munns says it’s a formal program that talks about things like money management, how to apply for a job, things they might not get otherwise. Munns says those who age out have traditionally not fared as well as kids in traditional families, and this program addresses that.
Munns says if you can make connections and know “how to get around as an adult” you are going to have a lot better chance. Nicki Visser of Knoxville entered the PAL program when she turned 18. She says the money it provided was important. She says when you’re in school or college it gives you a little money so you can focus more on school and don’t have to worry about a full-time job.
Visser says having her mentor Gina to meet with twice a month was probably a more important part of the program. “It really helped me out a lot, because there’s a lot of things I didn’t know when I turned 18,” Visser says. For example, her mentor reminded her to renew the license on her car, something she didn’t realize she had to do. Visser says the money she got actually became secondary.
She says the monthly stipend depends on how much money you make, and Visser say she got to a point where she made enough money that the stipend stopped. But she says the mentor relationship continued and she doesn’t think she would have been able to make it in school and do many other things without the help and advice.
The program ends when participants turn 21, but Visser says after she hit that age she is still able to keep in contact with her mentor when she needs some advice. Munns says the program is voluntary and about half of the 400 kids who age out of the foster care program each year take advantage of it.