Policy in action

Legislature passes bill supported by IPA research recommendations

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10:18 a.m., July 1, 2013--Delaware House Bill 163, designed to assist older teenagers making the transition to adulthood as they “age out” of foster care, is on its way to Gov. Jack Markell for his signature due in part to the policy research and recommendations from the University of Delaware School of Public Policy and Administration’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA).

“IPA was fortunate to participate in the research that laid the groundwork for the Ready by 21 legislation,” said Julia O’Hanlon, IPA associate policy scientist and governor-appointed co-chair of the Delaware Youth Opportunities Initiative’s (DYOI) Policy Working Group. “This is a relatively new policy area for us, but one that can generate significant implications to youth statewide.”

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The DYOI working group, which also included IPA associate policy scientists James Flynn, Lisa Moreland and Kelly Sherretz, collaborated with Delaware’s youth advocates and served as part of the House Joint Resolution (HJR) 18 Committee to propose a program to provide ongoing assistance to youth exiting foster care.

O’Hanlon added, “The biggest reward of being involved in this process was to work directly with Delaware’s youth — providing them with important background and research, but then witnessing these young leaders use the information to advocate for their own interests during committees and in front of policymakers.”

IPA’s research analysis culminated in the committee’s final report, Beyond 18: Ready by 21 Services for Delaware’s Youth Who Have Experienced Foster Care, which helped shape the bill.

In an editorial for the Huffington Post, Markell wrote, “We must improve the way we support teenagers in foster care. We need to work harder to give them the same support and guidance parents provide their own teenagers. It's a critical ingredient to improving the odds for these young people and helping them build better adult lives.”

“The program will support more independent-living opportunities for Delawareans ‘aging out’ while providing ongoing assistance up to their 21st birthday,” said O’Hanlon.

House Bill 163 requires the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families to create and maintain a developmentally appropriate, comprehensive program that fully integrates independent living services from ages 14 to 21 and that will assist youth with their successful transition into adulthood.

On behalf of the DYOI Policy Working Group, the HJR 18 Committee was recognized in March by the General Assembly for their research and recommendations related to Ready by 21.

IPA’s research for DYOI also includes the Delaware Environmental Scan report and an issue brief titled “Aging Out” of Foster Care.

Article by Sarah Pragg

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