Texas CASA Champion Bill Spotlight: Better Preparing Youth for Life After Foster Care

Now that the 87th Texas Legislature is well underway, let’s explore some of the legislation we’re championing this session. Today, we’re featuring HB 2632/SB 1084.

HB 2632: IMPROVING OUTCOMES FOR YOUTH WHO ARE OLDER & TRANSITIONING OUT OF FOSTER CARE.

Author: Rep. Minjarez
Companion: SB 1084
About: Bill History/Bill Summary

Ensure youth and young adults have the skills and resources to transition to independence successfully by updating the Preparation for Adult Living program.

Status: Referred to Human Services as of 3/25/2021

Background

Last year, more than 8,300 youth in the Texas foster care system were 14 or older, and each year, around 1,200 of these young Texans age out of the foster care system at 18 without reaching permanency.

Older youth in foster care, including those at risk of aging out, face extremely difficult challenges. These youth are often not adequately prepared for adulthood and, as such, have disproportionately adverse outcomes compared to their peers not in foster care. Some of these outcomes include:

  • higher pregnancy and incarceration rates before the age of 21,
  • lower likelihood of completing high school with a diploma,
  • higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness,
  • lower likelihood of having an ID or driver’s license,
  • higher likelihood of being underemployed or unemployed, and
  • higher likelihood of experiencing physical and mental health challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified challenges for these young adults related to food, housing, healthcare, technology, finances, employment, transportation, education, household supplies and childcare.

During the 85th Regular Session in 2017, the Texas Legislature took a meaningful step to improve the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)’s services for these young people with SB 1758. SB 1758 directed DFPS to form a stakeholder workgroup comprised of 20 members that specialize in providing services to and/or work with youth and young adults in the foster care system and alumni. Texas CASA participated in the workgroup, helping to develop recommendations to the legislature on how to improve services and supports for older youth transitioning out of foster care. Several of these recommendations are proposed in HB 2632, the bill we’re spotlighting today.

HOW WOULD THIS LEGISLATION HELP?

HB 2632 includes recommendations focused on strengthening the Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program to better support youth to be successful after they leave foster care in a variety of ways, including documentation, medication and housing. The provisions in the bill include:

  • Making appropriate accommodations for youth with disabilities so they can meaningfully participate in the PAL program,
  • Ensuring youth 14 years of age and older have a secure email address set up to access all of their personal documents such as school and medical records,
  • Ensuring youth have copies of their health insurance cards,
  • Helping youth establish a rental history and make living arrangements for when they exit state care, and
  • Teaching youth about their medication and how to self-administer it properly.

Youth who age out of foster care are at a heightened risk for homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and other adverse outcomes. As the legal parent of these young people, the State of Texas can and should do more to ensure quality transitional living services for youth and young adults as they exit state care. Texas CASA urges the Legislature to pass HB 2632 to better support some of Texas’ most vulnerable youth.

Interested in CASA’s Legislative Advocacy?

You can keep up with this legislation, as well as the status of other bills that would improve the child welfare system for youth and their families, on our Bill Tracker. If you’re interested in joining or starting a Legislative Advocacy Team (LAT) at your local CASA program, you can learn more on our website.

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