BOSTON, MA – On Thursday, January 19th, the Senate approved a $131 million supplemental budget for the current fiscal year 2012. Included in the final budget was an additional $1.8 million for the Foster and Adpted Child Fee Waiver program, which will fully fund the initiative for spring 2012 semester. The program, now in its fourth year, provides educational opportunities at state and community colleges to students who were formerly in Department of Children and Families (DCF) custody. The $1.8 million appropriation marks an important victory for the program, which has been chronically underfunded since its inception in 2008 as part of the Act Protecting Children in the Care of the Commonwealth.
There have been a variety of news articles highlighting this deficiency in recent months. Most notably was the case involving Alexis O’Malley of Marshfield, who was informed by DCF that she would be granted a waiver for fees and was later rejected. Since the issue was first brought to Senator Hedlund’s attention last summer, he has attempted to fully fund this program in every spending bill the legislature has taken up. His amendments were defeated by roll call votes on every occasion.
Based on figures received from the Department of Higher Education, Sen. Hedlund estimates that the $1.8 million expenditure will represent an average savings of $2,500 per student in the coming semester. For students attending more expensive state universities, the savings could be as great as $5,000.
National data from the Department of Health and Human Services suggests bleak futures ahead for those that remain in state custody until age 18. These young adults often experience higher than normal rates of incarceration and unemployment while some 20% end up homeless or unable to support themselves. Only 2% of children who age out of foster care go on to earn college degrees.
“This program makes a college education possible for many children who may not otherwise be able to afford it,” Hedlund said. “I am proud that the legislature is finally keeping its promise to some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children. This is a smart investment that gives these children a chance at a better future.”