OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A change in Oklahoma legislation this past session is having a positive impact on foster care youth.
House Bill 1709 went into affect immediately after being signed into law. The Successful Adulthood Act was already in place, but now it has new language that lowers the age for foster care youth to receive federal funding from 18 to 16.
Prior to signing the bill, only youth who aged out on their 18th birthday or those who were adopted or went into guardianship after turning 16 could continue to receive state funding and services.
“As we started really looking at permanency for the agency and making sure that our young people had permanency and were transitioning to permanency, there was one population that was left out because of the way that legislation read,” said Jennifer Boyer, programs administrator at OKDHS.
The verbiage of the previous version of the bill did not take into account the foster youth who were reunified with their families before turning 18, unintentionally blocking their access to the funding if they went home.
“We’d never want there to be barriers to young people to go home,” said Boyer.
That was the case for Savien Johnson, who was reunified with his family before turning 18.
“When I was 17 years old I was reunified with my parents, and when I was 17, I didn’t know that I would be eligible for extra funding at the time,” said Johnson.
Thanks to the change in legislation, Johnson is able to utilize that funding he was eligible for before.
“It’s helped my life improve over the past two years and recently with the passing of the new legislation,” said Johnson.
Now, Johnson has a job at OKDHS where he works alongside those who helped him while he was a foster youth.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” said Johnson. “First and foremost, it’s the best job I’ve had, and secondly, it’s very relatable. I’m doing a bunch of work for someone that’s like me.”
The federal funding helps foster care youth with things such as paying for college, securing a vehicle and even with medical care.