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Thumbs down: State should do more for foster care teens

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

Foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement -- a safe place for children who are victims of abuse or for some other reason lack adequate care.

Child welfare offices work hard to place children in safe permanent situations, and over the past decade the number of children in foster care has declined. But many children are never adopted or reunited with their families. They move through foster families and group homes until they "age out" of the system between the ages of 19 and 21.

Not surprisingly, many of those teens are not very well prepared for independence. Years of foster care certainly could mean some emotional challenges, but these young people often also lack most of the basics -- a job, transportation, a place to live, and guidance, a recent Associated Press report shows.

"They're being told to sink or swim, and good luck," the Rev. Matthew Watts of Charleston's Grace Bible Church told the AP.

Federal resources are available to help with their transitions, but until recently, officials have not always taken advantage of the funds available. Over the past two years, the Department of Health and Human Resources returned nearly $1 million in potential aid unspent.

These funds can be used for rent, transportation, computers or psychological counseling. There are also vouchers for post-secondary schooling. Officials acknowledge that they need to do more and are hopeful they will return little or no money in the years to come. They also are planning a special conference this summer that will offer help with life skills such as money management and finding work.

These teens deserve all the help the state can provide.

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