New Laws Help Foster Teens Achieve Independence

BALTIMORE, MD.  (July 12, 2011)  – Teenagers have two major milestones that they anxiously await: securing a drivers license and going to college.  These milestones mark their transition from dependency to self- responsibility.  These transitions can come with inherent challenges, especially for young people in foster care who must contend with issues including who signs for their learner’s permit or how do they pay for college?  In Maryland, there are approximately 4,141 youth in foster care over the age of 14 who often ponder these questions.

Two bills passed by the general assembly and signed into law by Governor O’Malley will assist the Department of Human Resources to remove barriers foster teens face in successfully navigating these very important issues.

“The new laws are additional tools to help foster youth transition to success,” said Carnitra White, director of the Social Services Administration. “A driver’s license expands opportunities for employment especially since many foster teens must work before entering college.  In the past, many youth postponed college and lost the opportunity to receive help in advancing their education.”

HB 789 – Driver’s License Application allows for the local director of a department of social services or the director’s designee to be the cosigner of a driver’s license application for a minor applicant who is committed to the custody or guardianship of a local department of social services.

HB 1208 – Higher Education – Exemption from Tuition for Foster Care Recipients – Eligibility Age raises the age from 21 to 25 for a foster youth to enroll at a Maryland public institution of higher education and to remain eligible for a tuition waiver.  It also alters from 21 to 25 the age that a foster care youth must be enrolled as candidate for a specified degree in order to be exempt from paying the difference between their scholarship or grant award and the amount of tuition owed.

Foster youth are eligible for a tuition and mandatory fee exemption to attend a public institution of higher education in Maryland if they resided in an out-of-home placement when they graduated from high school or successfully completed a general equivalency development (GED) examination.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) reports that 81 foster care children received tuition waivers in fiscal 2009 and 94 received tuition waivers in fiscal 2010.

Filed in: Adoption and Foster Care, Child Welfare, DHS News, In the Press

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