I do not let money stand in my way and neither should you. Health care and educational funding should be available for everyone, including foster youth, until age 26. As foster youth, we are like all youth: anxious to be out and on our own. However, there are multiple benefits we can lose by leaving care just a few days or weeks before our 18th birthday.
I had always wanted to be adopted and to have a family to belong to until I realized I could lose all of the benefits that will help me be healthy and pay for school. Suddenly, adoption sounded like a risk.
I was happy when I aged out of care and was told I would get free health care until the age of 26. Knowing that I would not have to pay for anything except a co-pay here and there made me feel like I was invincible. For once in my life I did not have to worry about where I was going to get the money to pay for my medical bills, medications, glasses, and teeth cleanings; all of that was taken care of. I didn’t have to depend on an adult or job with health benefits.
Everyone’s situation is different… there are those who get reunified before they turn 18. Those youth have to live without health care and the scholarships given to those who have aged out of the child welfare system. Foster youth in my community who have been reunified or adopted have enough challenges without losing the option to be covered by Medicaid.
When I finally realized how important it was to age out of a system that nobody wants to be in, I was overwhelmed. Health care isn’t just important to me, but the foster youth community as a whole. This realization helped me advocate for health care in many ways in my home state of Wisconsin. Knowing how much health care meant to everyone in my community helped me have a goal in life. My personal goal is to work toward the implementation of accessible health care for everyone under the age of 26, not just foster youth.
Health care is not the only resource that assists with aging out; funds for secondary education help as well. Most former foster youth don’t age out with tons of money. I left care with less than $500 in my bank account. Luckily, when youth age out they have the option to use Education and Training Voucher (ETV) funds that supply us with money to help pay for schooling. I decided to go to a private university, meaning they do not have government funds to help pay for things. By choosing to go to a private school I lost the opportunity to have all of my schooling paid for. I only have ETV funds, scholarships, or non-governmental grants to help pay for my education.
I don’t know where I would be without ETV funds and health care. Paying for medical bills and paying for an expensive school is difficult. Every foster youth should have the right to these benefits, whether or not they age out of the system.