Bell's Bills Create Opportunities for Youth to Participate in Government, Extend Foster Care for Youth in Need

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 7:00 pm

Start Date:  1/30/2008  All Day  
End Date:  1/30/2008    
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(STATEHOUSE) Jan. 30, 2008 - The Indiana House of Representative passed two bills co-authored by Rep. Matt Bell (R-Avilla). House Bill 1290 deals with extending the age to which foster care may be received by a child, and House Bill 1162 allows the presiding officer of a city or town council to appoint someone less than 18 years old to serve as a non-voting advisor to the municipal legislative body.

"Collectively, we share the responsibility to inspire the next generation of leaders," said Rep. Bell. "By expressly granting the presiding officer of a city or town council the ability to appoint a youth member as an adviser, we are extending youth the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in local government. Experience demonstrates that when you are engaged in civic activity, there are a variety of very positive benefits for youth and the communities they serve."

Individuals would be appointed by the presiding officer of a city or town council. The appointed youth would not be a voting member of the council, but an advisor to the legislation process.

This bill is a natural extension of Mayor's Youth Advisory Councils, which is currently active in more than 40 communities across the state, including Kendallville and New Haven. Members of Kendallville Mayor Suzanne Handshoe's youth advisory council provided important advocacy and feedback on this issue.

HB 1290 makes it possible for an individual who received foster care before the age of 18 to stay in foster care until they are 21 if they are working, attending a vocational program or attending an educational program.

"Statistics demonstrate that 60 percent of adolescents who age out of foster care without a permanent residency plan in place find themselves homeless, imprisoned or dead within three years," said Rep. Bell. "Cutting off all the help available to foster children on their 18th birthday creates unnecessary hardships. We have to send a better message to those young people than 'Sink or swim', and this bill moves foster care in Indiana in a positive direction."

Almost 20 percent of foster children become homeless by the time they are 21. This legislation creates a transition period and provides young adults in need with additional support. Illinois has a similar transition period for foster children already in place, and statistics have proven this to be beneficial to the recipient in many ways including much higher incomes.

Rep. Bell encourages constituents to contact him through e-mail at h83@in.gov, by calling the Statehouse toll-free at 1-800-382-9841 or by writing him at 200 W. Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204.