A bill to help more kids in Colorado's foster care system go to college one day has passed its first hurdle at the legislature.
Sponsored by state Sen. Linda Newell, SB15-131 passed the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and is now headed to the Finance Committee.
Newell’s bill would set up a formal collaborative between higher education and county and child welfare officials. The idea is to create a coordinated support network to help foster youth onto campus or into job training.
"I feel like I’m standing at the top of a mountain with my arms in the air and I’m alone," bill supporter Tori Black testified at the hearing. She's a CU Denver graduate who attended 36 schools due to a disruptive life with her biological parents. She was in the foster care system as a toddler and again as a teen. "I want my foster brothers and sisters who are suffering in foster care right now to be on top of that mountain celebrating one day."
Colorado has about 8,000 foster youth. These youth experience disproportionate rates of homelessness, unemployment, unplanned pregnancies, incarceration, human trafficking, and reliance on public assistance. Statistics show if nothing is done, the lifetime costs to society for the 362 Colorado youth who aged out of foster care in 2013 will be about $108 million.
Just over a quarter of foster care students in Colorado’s class of 2013 graduated on time, compared to three-quarters of all students, and half of homeless students, one study shows. And experts say education is a child in foster care's best chance of becoming independent, productive citizens.