Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
February 15, 2022
by Jasmine Demers
A federal stimulus package was meant to provide financial relief to current and former foster youth during the pandemic. But less than 30% of Kentucky’s $7.3 million allotment has reached young people who may need it.
Kentuckians 18 to 26 years old who spent time in foster care were eligible for a $2,000 cash payment and help with other needs between March and September last year. The state distributed almost $2.2 million. But only about 1,000 Kentucky youth successfully applied and received relief — leaving more than $5.2 million unclaimed.
The state recently reopened registration and has until the end of September to distribute the rest of the funds. But federal rules changed, and now it’s only available up to 23 years old.
With no system in place to track youth who age out of foster care and a slew of obstacles exacerbated by the pandemic, local advocates are concerned that many vulnerable youth will continue to be left without crucial relief.
“I think one of the largest challenges is whether or not young people were even aware that it was available to them,” said Celeste Bodner, executive director at Foster Club, a national nonprofit for foster youth. “There is no magic list of former foster youth in this country. Once a young person has left foster care, the state no longer maintains contact in most cases.”
(This is an excerpt. Read the complete story on kycir.org)
How does this story impact young people?
While this story is specific to Kentucky, FosterClub has seen similar things happening in other states. Much of the $400 milliion in pandemic relief funds for transition-age foster youth has been left unclaimed - often because young people did not know it was available to them. Some young people were also confused by the application process, since different states handled the funding distribution in different ways.
What is FosterClub doing to help?
FosterClub partnered with our home state of Oregon to help distribute pandemic relief funding. We created the Oregon Peer Navigators to help connect with young people and guide them through the process. We also gathered as much information as we could about how young people in other states could apply for funding, and added it to our resource hub.
How can you support young people?
There is a lot you can do to help us connect young people with resources like this relief funding! Here are a few ideas:
- Spread the word by following FosterClub on social media and sharing any posts you see about resources for foster youth. You never know if your post will reach someone who needs FosterClub's help.
- Make a donation to FosterClub. Every dollar makes a difference! Your support of FosterClub makes it possible for us to expand our reach and connect with more young people to alert them to opportunities and resources.
- Reach out to your representatives. FosterClub helped organize young people to secure the pandemic relief funding in the first place. There is always a risk that because so much went unclaimed, Congress will assume this funding is unnecessary. Make sure your reps know that support for current and former foster youth is important to you!