WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call as he leads bipartisan legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to better support foster care youth in Ohio and increase access to housing once Ohioans age out of the foster care system.
Brown’s bill, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, would provide Family Unification Vouchers (FUP) “on demand” to foster youth who are at risk of homelessness as they transition to adulthood. This means that young adults will be able receive a FUP voucher from HUD as they are aging out of foster care—rather than having to spend years on waiting lists for one to become available.
“We know that housing is a foundation for opportunity – without stable, affordable housing, it’s often nearly impossible to hold down a job, pursue a degree, and build a life for yourself,” said Brown. “That’s why I worked with foster care youth, alumni, and allies in Ohio and Senator Grassley to incorporate their ideas into the bipartisan Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act. Our bill would streamline access to housing assistance for foster youth, provide additional resources in more communities, and encourage local housing and child welfare agencies to work together to better serve these vulnerable young people.”
Brown was joined on today’s call by Cloé Cooper from Columbus who aged out of the foster care system at the age of 18 and struggled to secure food, housing and education. She is now a coordinator with the Columbus State Scholar Network, which helped her succeed in school and provides higher education opportunities for foster youth.
“Providing on demand housing vouchers for young adults aging out of care is an imperative preventative measure to former foster youth homelessness. If foster alumni are given the chance and platform to be successful, the benefits to the nation’s economy, communities and continued policy improvements are immeasurable. All they need is the opportunity,” said Ms. Cooper.
Each year, approximately 20,000 youth across the country age out of foster care. This results in a sudden and permanent transition from foster care to adulthood. Unfortunately, this sudden transition places these vulnerable young adults at risk of homelessness and housing instability due to the loss of the financial, educational, and social supports that the child welfare system provides.
Brown’s bill would also streamline access to FUP vouchers for Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) in more communities, making it easier to serve foster youth throughout the country; extend a foster youth’s FUP voucher for up to an additional 24 months as they are working toward self-sufficiency; and require coordination between PHAs and Public Child Welfare Agencies to identify eligible recipients and help housing agencies to connect youth to supportive services.
Brown’s bill has been endorsed by 80+ organizations, including: ACTION Ohio, Ohio Youth Advisory Board, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, National Alliance to End Homeless, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus Campaign for Children, Ohio Children’s Alliance, Schoolhouse Connection, Youth Homes of Mid-America, National Crittenton, Foster Club, Bethany Christian Services, Children’s Home Society of America, Coalition for Family and Children Services in Iowa, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, National Network for Youth.
Last month, Brown also joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Family First Transition Act, which includes a number of key provisions Brown secured from his Family First Transition and Support Act, legislation to increase investment and support for child welfare as Ohio counties struggle to make sure children are cared for, especially in light of the addiction crisis. Brown worked closely with the Senate Finance Committee to ensure his provisions were included in the bipartisan bill.
Brown’s Family First Transition Act would build on the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) that was signed into law last year, by:
- Giving states more time and resources to build a wider range of evidenced-based foster care prevention programs to keep families safe at home. Such programs include substance use treatment and prevention, in-home parent training, and family mental health services.
- Providing states with flexible funding to transition to Family First, allowing states to use the funds to address the needs of their communities, including foster parent recruitment, training for child welfare workers, support for parents and kinship caregivers, including $18 million for Ohio programs.
- Providing additional funds for states like Ohio, that were operating under a federal child welfare demonstration program that ended in September. These funds would guarantee that Ohio service providers are able to continue to serve children and families without a gap in funding.