Georgia's 5th District Representative, Atlanta Congressman John Lewis introduced the Foster Youth Higher Education Opportunities Act yesterday, the companion House legislation to S. 3665 introduced by Senator John Kerry (MA) last week.
With only three percent of former foster youth attending college and even fewer graduating, this simple legislation will help eliminate an additional barrier facing foster care youth. The current Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form includes a box which foster youth check to indicate that they were in foster care and do not have parental support. However, there is no clear way to ensure that they are informed of the existing federal resources to assist them.
"Foster children," said Rep. John Lewis, "represent some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society or any society. For many reasons their parents cannot be there for them. And once they are placed in the foster care system, agents of the government often struggle to give them what they need and rightfully deserve. We have an obligation as a society to do everything we can to support these children, to level the playing field when the responsibility for their development falls on our watch. This is a simple bill that makes an attempt to bridge the gap these children face and increase their chances of overcoming the challenges life has dealt them."
The Foster Youth Higher Education Opportunities Act is a straightforward effort to certify that foster care youth are aware of all resources available to them as they seek higher education opportunities. This bill will --
• Require the Department of Education to inform any foster care youth of their eligibility for all federal programs that specifically support higher education for foster youth (including the Chafee Program and Education and Training Voucher funds); and
• Require the Department of Education to include foster youth as a category on their website to highlight the specific federal programs for which foster youth may be eligible.