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State sen. Parker proposes bill for teens leaving foster care

Supporting the kids: From left, Nicole Etienne, associate vice president Institute for Community Living, David Woodlock, cheif exectutive officer for the Institute For Community Living, Melody Centeno, founder of Foster Care Unplugged, State sen. Kevin Parker, and Juana Jimenez-Guathier, vice president of Foster Care Unplugged at City Hall on May 4.
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State sen. Kevin Parker (D–Ditmas Park) wants to financially assist young adults transitioning out of the foster care system in a new bill he proposed on May 4. To commemorate foster care awareness this month, Parker said it was his passion to solve issues regarding teens leaving the foster care system and working with advocacy groups, he hoped his bill would address the issues affecting them.

“I’ve been working over the last two years with Foster Care Unplugged and they work with young people out of foster care, and we are really concerned because the biggest problem is facing adults aging out of foster care,” said Parker.

Parker is proposing a bill to provide financial needs to teens, such as a banking accessibility and courses that will educate them the necessary information.

“First part of my bill will establish an individual savings account that the state can contribute money into for everyone,” said Parker. “This is especially important for young people when they come out and they can use this money for education or start business.”

The other parts of the bill will also require courses on financial literacy and basic independent living skills, according to Parker.

At 18 years old teens are officially out of the states’ system and are usually on their own with not much support, said Parker.

“When you come out of prison you get $40, a metrocard, and a good luck, but when you leave the foster care system you only get a ‘good luck,’ if you’re lucky,” he said.

Parker said while the number of children in the system had decreased, many children were finding themselves with no place to go despite decreasing rates.

“The DeBlasio administration has done a number of things to reduce numbers with more people getting adopted but we’re finding that 15 percent of people aging out of the system are becoming homeless and that’s a big problem,” he said. “We are already overburdened with homeless shelter systems in New York, but with this bill I introduced, we believe it will be part of the solution to address people in foster care.”

The senator said that as the son of a former foster child, the welfare of children in the system impacted him a lot and he felt that not every child will be as lucky to find a stable life as his father.

“I am an indirect product of the system and a lot of what impacted me were stories of my father having to make it on the streets with no family and with no support,” he said. “Lucky enough he was able to get stability but many of our young people are not lucky and we certainly want to provide as much we can to them, because stability equals maturity.”

Parker expressed the hope that he would get support for the bill and that it would pass by the end of the year. “If the bill is made into law it can strongly influence children in the system,” he said.

“New York State can no longer afford to fail our foster care children,” he said. “I am proud to have the support of advocates and Melody Centeno of Foster Care Unplugged, to fight for our youth in the foster care system. Once passed, the law will immediately have a significant impact on thousands of children in foster care, and the subsequent positive externalities will be beneficial for all New Yorkers.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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