MONTGOMERY — Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday held a ceremonial bill signing for Alabama’s Fostering Hope Scholarship Act, which will offer people currently or formerly in Alabama’s foster care program the opportunity to receive a college education. There are approximately 5,000 children in Alabama’s foster care system, and the scholarship program could help provide scholarships to hundreds of people a year.
“Fostering Hope Scholarships will provide foster children the opportunity for a better future by attending any two- year, four-year or technical institution in Alabama,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “We owe it to our children to give them every possible opportunity for a successful life, and this bill helps those in the foster care system prepare for success. I commend the Legislature, specifically bill sponsors Senator Dick Brewbaker and Representative Paul Lee, for passing this important bill.”
Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, Senate Bill 157 will, contingent on funding, provide eligible participants with:
Tuition and required fees at any public two-year or four-year institution of higher education in the state of Alabama, or
Payment for required fees for state-provided job training courses or skill certifications.
A mentor service administered by the Department of Human Resources as a support system for participants in the scholarship program
SB 157 was sponsored by State Senator Dick Brewbaker (R-Pike Road) and State Representative Paul Lee (R-Dothan).
“The Fostering Hope Scholarship Act gives foster kids a real opportunity at the American dream,” Senator Dick Brewbaker said. “The bill levels the playing field for kids who have been dealt a tough hand at a very young age. I was proud to sponsor this legislation in the Senate and believe it will have a dramatic and positive impact on foster children in Alabama.”
“Every child in Alabama deserves access to a quality education and a chance at a bright future, and this bill gives our foster children the opportunity to pursue those options,” Representative Lee said. “I’m proud to be able to sponsor this important legislation that could be life-changing for these children.”
The Alabama Department of Human Resources will develop and administer the scholarship program. Funding will depend on the Legislature and Governor. In the 2015 Regular Session, lawmakers and Governor Bentley set aside $3 million for the program when they passed and signed into law Senate Bill 182, a supplemental appropriation bill by State Senator Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.
“I commend Governor Bentley, Senator Brewbaker, Representative Lee and all legislators who helped to pass the Fostering Hope Scholarship Act,” DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner said. “This legislation will provide hope for a better future to those in our foster care system. It is very important to our older youth in foster care, and it is my hope that it will help encourage families who are considering adopting older youth to do so.”
Governor Bentley signed SB157 into law on May 5, 2015
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July 28-30, 2015(14-16) We will be hosting an camp for up to 100 IL youth each. The camp in July will be for youth ages 14-16 years of age. Activities of the camp build self-confidence and independent living skills among youth. Campers will participate in closely supervised activities within their small group such as a ropes course, team building activities, talent show, field games, and others as a group. All camp activities will provide opportunities for campers to develop relationships with their peers and other group members in order to trust and understand each other. To sign up CLICK HERE.
Governor Bentley held a ceremonial bill signing Tuesday for the Fostering Hope Scholarship Act, a new law that offers children currently or formerly in Alabama’s foster care program the opportunity to receive a college education. Sponsored by Senator Dick Brewbaker (R-Pike Road) and Representative Paul Lee (R-Dothan) the law will go into effect during the 2016-2017 school year. To read more on this article written by Jordan LaPorta CLICK HERE.
A film written and acted by foster care youth ripped from the stories of their lives. Five youth's worlds interweave as they confront loss, heartbreak, and come of age in this tale about transience and perseverance. Addie struggles to graduate from high school while her best friend Marie loses her grandmother. Megan copes with being taken from her abusive family and faces the harsh reality of living in a residential treatment center. All the while Eva works to be mother to her sister while their father falls deeper into a crack addiction. Finally, there's Austin who's living on the street with his brother; barely able to feed himself. All of them must decide to survive or else fall victim to a broken system.
When President Obama recognized May 2015 as National Foster Care Month, his Proclamation honored "those who dedicate themselves to making a difference." As the month draws to a close, those of us working in the foster care trenches need to take a hard look at where we are still failing these children.
Since 1997, the federal government has held states accountable for the "well-being" of children in their care. While the definition of "well-being" has evolved over time, as leader of an organization that has worked with thousands of foster children, it is clear to me that education is the key - and that education is where we should focus our energies.
Education of children in child welfare is a difficult challenge, but it is one we must address. ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion has shown great leadership in urging the child welfare community to raise the bar and focus more specifically on "well-being."
Education is the one attribute that can overcome all other challenges. There are many examples of individuals who have overcome physical or mental health challenges - if they are well-educated. Likewise, education makes it far more likely that an individual, regardless of his childhood circumstances, will be able to earn a living, support a family and lead a productive life.
But without an adequate education, young people start out their lives in a deep hole. High school graduates earn an average of $260,000 more over their lives than those who don't graduate. College graduates earn an average of $830,000 more. The broader social costs are even greater: unplanned pregnancies, drug abuse, incarceration among disconnected youth, and long-term dependence on government-funded services for food, healthcare and housing.
Until we find ways to close the education gap for children in the child welfare system, we will never truly be able to ensure their well-being. Unfortunately, it will not be easy.
The New York Foundling launched Haven Academy, a K-5 charter school in one of the nation's most disadvantaged communities, seven years ago. With two-thirds of the students in the child welfare system and one-third from the school's neighborhood, we've surrounded them with extensive social services. Even in this environment, though, issues persist.
When compared to children in child welfare across the city, the child welfare students at Haven are doing very well, with significant improvements in their test scores. Clearly, we are making progress. However, when compared to children at Haven from the general community, who are making greater strides, the child welfare students continue to lag behind, demonstrating how complex this educational challenge remains.
Older children pose additional challenges. When they reach age 21, hundreds of these young people in New York City alone "age out" of the foster care system each year. Only 20 percent enroll in college and of those who do enroll, only 3 percent earn degrees. Lacking an adequate education, a family support system and the life skills most of us take for granted, one in four is incarcerated within two years and one in five becomes homeless.
We know that certain tactics work. We know that early education, like the pre-K programs undertaken by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, gets results. But we need to go further, expanding Head Start and Early Head Start programs and making them more available in communities with a high prevalence of at risk children.
We know that children in foster care require teachers with special training. Many of these children have been subjected to trauma or abuse, the neurological and psychological consequences of which are well-documented. They may respond unpredictably to seemingly normal gestures. Their behavior in the classroom may change if they've had a parental visit over the weekend. These issues go beyond what the typical teacher can deal with in a typical classroom.
For older youth - those who are closer to "aging out" - we have recently had great success with a new program to provide individual tutoring. In its first year, four times as many foster kids graduated high school and were accepted to four year colleges than we'd seen in any year previously. For those who are not college bound, we are poised to launch, in partnership with other organizations, an alternative program teaching the kind of advanced technology skills that will lead to good middle class jobs.
Clearly, these are only some of the potential answers. We need to continue to be innovative and aggressive. We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to help these children while they are in our care. If we fail to educate them adequately during the time they are in our care, many of them will ultimately be lost - and we will end up spending millions more to deal with issues they present as adults.
The Alabama ILP DREAM Council Ambassadors
The 3rd Annual Celebration of Scholars
Saturday, May 16th
9 am to 1 pm
6800 Governors West NW
Huntsville, Alabama 35806
If you have any questions or need any additional information, please contact Sandra Williams at 256-427-6303. We look forward to seeing you on Saturday.
A film written and acted by foster care youth ripped from the stories of their lives. Five youth's worlds interweave as they confront loss, heartbreak, and come of age in this tale about transience and perseverance. Addie struggles to graduate from high school while her best friend Marie loses her grandmother. Megan copes with being taken from her abusive family and faces the harsh reality of living in a residential treatment center. All the while Eva works to be mother to her sister while their father falls deeper into a crack addiction. Finally, there's Austin who's living on the street with his brother; barely able to feed himself. All of them must decide to survive or else fall victim to a broken system
CLICK HERE .
The sun has only barely begun to peek over the horizon but the faint brightness of the early morning sunrise stirs me in my sleep. I start to wake and for a brief moment I feel almost normal -- perhaps even happy -- suspended in a blissful state of ignorance as the sleep begins to leave my body and my mind wakes and adjusts to its surroundings. To read the full story by Kristopher Sharp CLICK HERE.
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