DCF: Foster care extends beyond age 18

DCF: Foster care extends beyond age 18

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

A new year, a new law for Central Florida foster kids.

As of January 1, children turning 18 years old will be allowed to remain in foster care programs as young adults.

Officials say the new law is based on more of a family structure.

"Turning 18 should be a milestone to celebrate, but for some young adults in foster care, this birthday can bring strong mixed emotions," said Bill D'Aiuto, the Regional Managing Director for the Department of Children and Families in Central Florida.

"We want these young people to remain focused on their education, career building skills as well as know that they are still part of a family at 18, rather than feel the entire pressure or weight of making it on their own while still a teen," he said.

DCF said in the first two months of this year, more than 30 teens will turn 18 across 12 counties.

Although they would have been eligible for services after foster care, the new law aims to reduce the likelihood that those who remain in foster care will become homeless, incarcerated or abuse substances.

Glen Casel, CEO of Community Based Care of Central Florida, agrees saying, "Extending the age limit for foster care will give young adults a more natural transition to independence while supporting them as they pursue opportunities for post-secondary education or job training."

Casel said Community Based Care of Central Florida is even offering a new independent living program that will offer resources to support 18-to-23-year-olds after high school graduation.

Teens in extended foster care are expected to hold a part-time job and remain active and engaged in their education toward a career.

While tuition is covered through state waivers, those in extended foster care are now also eligible for Medicaid until age 26.

The new law also considers that any teen can lose focus or become distracted during the years and allows for their return, should they become ineligible at some point.

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