This letter to the editor was written by Marty Sinnott, President & CEO of Child & Family in support of pending legislation in the State of Rhode Island that would allow for the voluntary extension of care for Wards of the State, from age 18 to age 21.
This time of year we celebrate the accomplishments of graduates who are moving on to new and exciting challenges and opportunities. There is one graduating class this year that should provoke feelings other than celebration. There is no cause for celebration when we look at the number of young people who at the age 18 “graduate” from our poorly performing child welfare system. This past year 145 Wards of the State were shown the door of our child welfare system without a legal relationship or permanent living arrangement. These young people have a history trauma, abuse, neglect and having grown up in our child welfare system. Services and supports for the vast majority of Wards ends abruptly and categorically at the arbitrary age of 18. How many of us as parents know that at age 18 most of us are more kid like that adult like. The accepted definition of young adulthood is 20 to 30 years of age.
Two Newport Legislative leaders have introduced legislation that we should celebrate. Representative Deb Ruggiero has introduced The Young Adult Voluntary Extension of Care Act (HB5807) while Senator Lou DiPalma has introduced companion legislation in Senate Bill 0069. The legislation establishes a planning period with DCYF and Family Court with implementation in a year. We cannot wait for the failure of future graduating classes. Investments in job training, stable housing and educating are not only just for our graduates but represents a good investment in their future and ours.