Ohio foster care youth and alumni have been traveling regularly to DC since 2013, with an eye towards improving foster care outcomes throughout the nation. We are deeply grateful to Ruth Ann White of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare for her tireless support.
Our federal advocacy work includes:
1.) Housing: ACTION Ohio and the OHIO YAB are deeply honored to have authored the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, proposed the Foster Youth to Independence initiative, and hosted Congressional Briefings about the need to end the Foster Care to Homeless Pipeline. The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act (FSHO) was signed into federal law on December 27, 2020. This makes the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program permanent in statute, extends the three-year FYI voucher term by 2 additional years for individuals participating in self-sufficiency activities, and provides $25 million for the Family Unification Program (FUP) — $20 million of these funds are for on-demand housing vouchers for young people with a foster care history.
2.) IV-E funding: Ohio foster care youth and alumni played a critical role in extending foster care to 21, not just in our state, but initially advocating for the federal bill to pass that makes this provision possible. Foster care alumni helped write the curriculum for Bridges workers in our state. A provision in the recently passed federal stimulus package allows former foster youth to remain IV-E eligible until age 22 during the 2021 fiscal year. That time can be spent helping young people build a savings account, and consider applying for FYI housing vouchers when they turn 22.
3.) Chafee funding: Ohio foster care youth and alumni have been working for years to propose an increase in Chafee funding. The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R. 7947) includes a temporary increase of Chafee funds by 400 million in FY 2021, which does not require a state match. It also temporarily extends Chafee eligibility until age 27, and allows states to lift the 30% cap on room and board and provide room and board to young people who are between ages 18 years and 27 and have experienced foster care at 14 years of age or older.
4.) ETV funding: According to the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R. 7947), at least 50 million of the temporary increase of Chafee funds by 400 million in FY 2021 must be spent on ETV. This increases the maximum ETV award during FY 2021 from $5,000 to 12,000 per individual young person per year. Also of note — throughout the nation, there is a need for greater national consistency when it comes to ETV eligibility.
5.) Workforce: Ohio foster care youth and alumni continue to partner with iFoster to propose workforce solutions related to WIOA and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Although foster youth are considered a target population for WIOA Youth Programs, the current formula disqualifies many of them from receiving assistance due to being “in school.” Likewise, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain targeted groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment — but transition-age foster youth are no longer eligible.
6.) FAFSA questions: Also signed into federal law, and scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2023, are provisions to streamline the FAFSA for youth with experience with foster care and/or homelessness. This includes eliminating the requirements for the status of foster youth and unaccompanied homeless youths to be redetermined every year, and expanding the list of officials, programs acceded documents to verify that an applicant is a foster or an unaccompanied homeless youth.
There is also talk about simplifying FAFSA language regarding homeless youth; hopefully they keep (or improve) both questions regarding foster care history, because there is valuable information that can be attained by both of these targeted questions: (a.) “At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or a ward of the court?” and (b.) “Are you a foster youth or were you at any time in the foster care system?”
Our 2020 efforts in response to the international pandemic included:
- FSHO Senate Push: This advocacy effort succeeded; the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act is now federal law.
- March 12, 2020: Correspondence with Dr. Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, about what child welfare can do to support college students with a foster care history who are struggling due to the coronavirus.
- March 20, 2020: Writing federal legislators to propose three recommendations for inclusion in COVID-19 Relief Bill III
- March 31, 2020: Writing an open letter to the Children’s Bureau
- April 10, 2020: Writing the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth to share five Chafee-related recommendations
- April 15, 2020: Partnering with others to propose six recommendations to the Administration for Children and Families
- April 15, 2020: Writing federal legislators to propose five recommendations for inclusion in the CARES II Act
- July 2, 2020: Writing a letter of support and participating in the press release for the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act.
- All for the purpose of: Improving immediate circumstances and long-term outcomes for foster care youth and alumni.