New Ohio law extends foster-care eligibility age to 21

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Foster-care eligibility in Ohio has been extended to age 21 under a bill signed into law by Gov. John Kasich that’s intended to provide more support for young people as they move into adulthood.

The bill signed into law this week is similar to legislation showing up in a growing number of states. It goes into effect in 90 days and is expected to be implemented within about 18 months.

The Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies and other child advocates worked about three years on the legislation giving foster children the option to continue receiving guidance and assistance.

Proponents of the new law hope it will help reduce the number of foster youths in Ohio who fall into poverty and homelessness each year after their 18th birthdays.

“Many of them really need a plan, not a program,” said Sean Reilly, executive director of United Methodist Children’s Home Family Services. “They need a plan that is comprehensive and talks about their housing needs, school needs, trades — whatever that might be.”

As part of the law, programs made available to foster children include college and career counseling and transitional housing options.

First-year costs to the state are estimated at $9.7 million, not including federal foster-care money.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services received $550,000 to develop a plan for the new law. Funding will be determined in the next budget.

“Together, we can now implement a program that will change the status quo and give young Ohioans better opportunities to succeed,” said Mark Mecum, executive director of the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies.

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