With the rise of the opioid epidemic, more and more youths are getting placed in foster care. In some cases, authorities find the youths when they respond to an overdose call. In other cases, it’s the youth himself or herself who calls to report that mom or dad is passed out and needs help.
It’s tragic. No child should have to go through that.
But when authorizes find children living in those conditions, it is important that they step in and move those children to a safe environment. That is when the state’s foster care system steps in and helps provide a safe environment for the youths.
More needs to be done for these youths, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, was right to form a task force this past summer to help address the needs of those in the foster-care system and of those aging out of the system.
One of the solutions the task force came up with includes free tuition to University of Wisconsin System or Wisconsin Technical College System school.
Youths aging out of foster care in most cases have little support from family. They are often on their own.
A college degree could help put them on the track to success and make the difference between a productive future and incarceration or welfare dependence.
That was, in fact, the goal of the task force. Vos said in a news release. “We need to find ways to better serve our most vulnerable citizens who, at no fault of their own, are put in challenging circumstances ... we want every child in Wisconsin to become a productive citizen and be given every opportunity to succeed in life. This includes the thousands of children in the foster care system.”
The state Department of Children and Families reported 7,168 children in out-of-home care in December 2015, an increase from the previous year, the task force news release stated. Most children spend almost a year in the program.
“Unfortunately, studies show that one in five will become homeless after age 18 and only half will be employed by age 24,” the task force news release states. “Few finish high school or go to college; about 60 percent of boys and half of girls are incarcerated at some point in their life.”
The State of Wisconsin needs to do what it can to help these youths. This bill, which has bipartisan support, is a good start.