House passes bill to extend foster support through age 21

OLYMPIA — Senate legislation passed today by the House will expand foster care support for youths through ages 18-21.

“Young people have expressed their need for continued support as they transition to living on their own,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the bill’s sponsor. “Extending support through these few critical years can make or break the path to independence for a vulnerable portion of our youth.”

SB 5908 also directs the state Dept. of Children, Youth & Families to provide information to youths aging out of traditional foster care on benefits, eligibility criteria, and incentives; transforms the program’s current opt-in requirement to opt out; and creates an incentive program that promotes education and employment.

“By providing voluntary extended foster care, we can remove barriers and offer essential support to youth who urgently need it,” added Rep. Julio Cortes (D-Everett), who sponsored companion legislation in the House, HB 2218. “Success stories and data show that these programs have positive impacts for at-risk youth and provide a great return on investment for our communities.”

Because the amended version of SB 5908 passed by the House differs from the version passed earlier by the Senate, the two chambers must reconcile the changes before the bill can be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee to be signed into law.

“Extended foster care curbs homelessness, reduces the need for future public services, and decreases the chance of generational poverty,” Wilson said. “We must remove the barriers to extended foster care in order to eliminate obstacles for youth phasing out of traditional foster care.”