Young people who were in foster care on their 18th birthday may now apply to stay in the system until age 21. Before the General Assembly approved expansion last year, foster kids aged out at 18 unless they were in college full time. The expansion became effective with the new year.
Lisa Cauley directs Wake County's Child Welfare Division, which has seen about 40 young adults age out of foster care per year. Cauley said the expansion can help young adults with rent and other support as they get on their feet.
"For young people in foster care, sometimes there are delays in school, they haven't quite finished high school, or there could be more training programs they need in addition to high school," she said. "And this just gives them more time, more opportunity to become self sufficient."
Kevin Kelley is with the state Division of Child Welfare Services. He said eligible 18-to-21-year-olds can now be placed in a home with a foster family or live independently in approved housing as they pursue a degree, vocational training, or begin a career. If young adults leave foster care, but realize they need the support, they can re-apply.
"Through supportive social services under the foster care program, we believe they'll be more prepared to be contributing members once they reach 21, or if they can at any time, exit from the program and re-enter again," said Kelley.
Kelley said state and federal funding will help about 1,000 young adults at a time, but the number could be higher.