A new law that just took effect keeps foster children in the system longer to help them transition into adulthood, but it also creates a new problem.
Derik Moss-Clark, 18, said he had a rough childhood.
He had been left alone in hotel rooms, abandoned at his house and even sold drugs in eighth grade to pay the rent.
“I got woke up daily getting abused, beat, burned,” he said.
He has been in and out of the foster system since age nine.
He knows that many kids in similar situations aren’t ready to move out on their own at age 18.
“We want to leave the system, we want to live our own lives, but because of what we’ve been through and the trauma we’ve dealt with we are not necessarily ready,” he said.
That’s why he supports the new law that just took effect January 1. It allows foster children to stay in the system until they’re 21.
Before they’d be forced out at 18, left to deal with the problems of the world on their own. They would get some assistance from the state. This new law allows them to receive more benefits.
But now there’s an even greater need for foster parents.
Nicole Pulcinimason is a representative with Kids Central INC and works closely with foster children.
“The whole state is looking for foster parents to this group of children,” she said.
DCF leaders said taking on this responsibility is more like a mentor role – rather than a parental role.
“We need foster homes and foster parents who are dedicated to these kids, bring them into their home, and help guide them into their decision making,” Pulcinimason said.
Moss-Clark has found a family with his church and his girlfriend’s relatives.
He’s in his second year of college taking businesses administration classes.
“I want to tell everyone that you don’t have to be what your life has been, you can take every day as a challenge, you can be better than what your parents were, better than the people around you, the situations you walked through,” Moss-Clark said.
Derek is excited for the future, but he knows there are other teens just like him who need the same hope and help.
Right now DCF said there are 200 teens who will turn 18 this year. More than 500 are between the age 18 and 21.