COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A state bill would extend the age that younger residents can get foster care services while requiring that court-appointed guardians receive a guide developed by the state’s attorney general.
The legislation would increase to 21 the age that foster youths could get services, provided they meet certain education and work requirements. It would create a bill of rights for those under guardianship care that would include being treated with dignity and respect, having personal information kept confidential, and safe, sanitary and humane living conditions.
State Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the proposal is designed to protect two of the state’s most vulnerable populations: people under the care of guardians and foster children approaching adulthood.
“As a family lawyer for more than 30 years, and having been appointed a guardian or attorney for a foster child, I have witnessed firsthand the heartbreaking circumstances of these situations and the confines and frailties of the law as it relates to these individuals,” Pelanda said in a written statement.
Advocates for those in foster care say more than 1,000 youths age out of the system at 18 each year, increasing their risk of homelessness, unemployment and dependence on public assistance.
Under the proposal, participation in the extended foster program would be voluntary.
The bill’s sponsors say their measure also is aimed at raising awareness of issues associated with caring for the more than 67,000 juvenile and elderly wards in Ohio.
The state costs associated with the bill include $300,000 in 2016 and $1.7 million in 2017.