It is shaping up to be a busy legislative session at the Statehouse, and I am eager to work with lawmakers to support the teens and young adults transitioning out of foster care in Indiana.
At Foster Success, we ensure that the 24,000 teens and young adults transitioning out of the state’s foster care system are healthy, stable, and have the tools they need to succeed. A big part of that is improving the systems that surround them through change at the state level.
Our efforts and our impact increase each year as we grow our team and support more and more young people with foster care experience. Last year, we directly supported 800 teens and young adults across the state, and we plan to support at least 1,000 this year.
Having a presence at the Statehouse is important, and including the voices of individuals who experienced foster care in every conversation is even more vital. Their lived experience in the foster care system is something most of us don’t have and can’t fully comprehend, so we empower them to speak for themselves and for their peers. We’ll be hosting a Day at the Statehouse February 2 for lawmakers to hear directly from those who have spent time in foster care.
Foster Success is focusing on four key initiatives this year, including increasing access to affordable driving for Indiana’s older foster youth.
Last year, the Indiana General Assembly created the Insuring Foster Youth Trust Fund to improve access to legal driving and increase self-sufficiency and access to educational and employment opportunities for Indiana’s older foster youth. This year, we are looking to provide base funding to the trust fund.
We also hope to reduce barriers to entry into the State Auto Insurance Plan for older foster youth. The goal is to get more teens and young adults on the road to their futures safely.
With partner organizations, we will work to encourage high-quality legal representation for older foster youth throughout their foster care experience. Oftentimes, children and teens don’t understand that they can and should ask for their own attorney — separate from their family’s and the state’s — to advocate for their interests.
To encourage more giving to nonprofit child welfare organizations such as Foster Success, we will work to increase private support for them, and to extend and improve the Foster Care Tax Credit the General Assembly created in 2021.
And of course, at the forefront of everything we do, is ensuring young peoples’ basic needs are met. We will keep a close eye on all housing, mental health care, and education-related legislation to ensure that young people transitioning out of foster care are healthy and safe, and have the same opportunities as their peers.
We will not rest until all young people with foster care experience are on an equal playing field with their peers, until their needs are met and their voices are heard.
Maggie Stevens is president & CEO of Foster Success, an Indiana-based nonprofit that provides financial, educational and social support to foster care youth who are about to or have already transitioned out of the foster care system, most often with no family or economic support. More information about Foster Success can be found at www.fostersuccess.org. Send comments to [email protected]