Children can stay in foster homes longer, and enjoy more freedom
6:43 PM, May 10, 2013
College freshman, Francis Jeune, just wrapped up his finals as he pursues his dream to be a nurse.
He credits his group home for keeping him on track, and motivating him to succeed. He joined the foster care system when he was 13-years-old.
"If I was not in a group home, I think I'd be in prison right now to tell you the truth," Jeune said.
He aged out of the group home when he turned 18 less than a year ago. He says it is a stressful transition. "The last six months when you're going to turn 18, they're the worst months ever," Jeune explained.
Now, he lives in West Palm Beach's Vita Nova apartments that help former foster children ease into life on their own.
"I was going to lose my support system. When I got here, I gained another support system," said Jeune.
But he knows not all 18-year olds in foster care are this lucky.
Vita Nova CEO Jeff DeMario said he sees the struggle too often that former foster kids go through. "Our young people that age out at 18, they're really struggling. They're struggling with homelessness 40% of the time.
They're struggling with drug and alcohol use. They're struggling with getting arrested, not completing school," DeMario said.
That's why Florida lawmakers passed a bill that will allow foster children to stay in their foster homes until they turn 21.
"It makes the most sense. How many of us were about to leave the house at 18, or able to be successful at 21?" said DeMario.
The bill also provides for college coaches at their school, and gives foster children more normalcy. It eliminates the need for court approval for children to do things like play sports, go on sleep-overs, or go to prom.
"Now you can play football and you can play soccer without going through six months of paperwork,' said Jeune.
The bill also allows children to come back to foster care if they leave it before they're 21.