[Hpn] The state's 'forgotten children'

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Sun, 06 Aug 2006 04:30:55 -0400


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The state's 'forgotten children': Study to address young adults' =
struggle to adjust after life in foster care

By Jon Brodkin/ Daily News Staff

Sunday, August 6, 2006=20

Ashley Shea moved into her first foster home at age 15, when her parents =
kicked her out because she admitted she is a lesbian.=20

    =20

    "It was scary, because you go into a complete stranger's home, and =
you have no idea who this person is," said Shea, who grew up in =
Northborough and now lives in Milford.=20

    =20

    But for many young adults, the scariest and most dangerous part of =
the foster care experience is the end, when they leave state custody and =
have to fend for themselves. Every year, researchers believe 600 or so =
Massachusetts residents "age out" of the foster care system.=20

    =20

    A disproportionate number of these young adults, ages 18 to 23, have =
mental illness, have no high school diploma, end up jobless, homeless, =
on drugs or in jail, authorities say.=20

    =20

    "If kids have a long-term experience in foster care, they often =
don't have the same advantages that other kids have," said Mary Collins, =
professor of social work at Boston University. "If they fail once, it =
can be devastating."=20

    =20

    Collins is directing what she says is the first statewide project in =
Massachusetts to examine the problems faced by former foster kids. The =
study, which kicked off less than three weeks ago, was commissioned by a =
task force consisting of state agencies and a range of nonprofit groups. =


    =20

    The Task Force on Youth Aging Out of DSS Care plans to issue =
recommendations to the Legislature and DSS in the fall of 2007 aimed at =
improving the lot of foster children when they enter the world of jobs =
and rent.=20

    =20

    Currently, advocates for youth in foster care say the state =
Department of Social Services lacks the resources to prepare young =
adults for the challenges they face upon leaving the system.=20

    =20

    Ashley Shea, now 21, lauds her DSS social worker for helping her =
learn skills like balancing a checkbook, but said the ongoing adjustment =
to independence is difficult.=20

    =20

    "It seemed to happen really fast, once I got a job and started =
saving money," she said. "You have to learn all that stuff on your own, =
how to pay bills, how to budget your money, kind of fast."=20

    =20

    The latest DSS figures show the agency has custody of 9,451 children =
younger than 18 years old, and provides a place to live to another 1,307 =
young adults as old as 23.=20

    =20

    About 77 percent of children and young adults in DSS placements are =
in foster homes. The rest stay in residential facilities.=20

    =20

    Youth "age out" of the system when they turn 18, but are allowed to =
sign themselves back into foster care and stay until they are 23.=20

    =20

    The DSS changed its rules a year ago to make it easier for former =
foster kids to re-enter DSS, but that doesn't mean a young adult is =
always matched with a foster parent, said Bonny Saulnier, vice president =
for family-based services at Wayside Youth & Family Support Network in =
Framingham.=20

    =20

    "The shortage of foster parents is so great that DSS would likely =
prioritize kids under 18 for the rare slot," she said.=20

    =20

    The DSS is required to provide housing to clients, so anyone who =
can't be matched with foster parents would be put in a residential =
facility, an agency official said.=20

    =20

    A survey in 2005 found that one-quarter of homeless young adults in =
the state were previously in DSS custody, according to the Massachusetts =
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), which issued =
a policy paper on life after foster care last year.=20

    =20

    Statistics on this population are scarce, but national research has =
found that former foster kids are highly likely to be unemployed, suffer =
mental illness, go to prison, become parents at a young age, and become =
victims of violent crimes like assault and rape, according to the MSPCC. =


    =20

    Thirty-nine to 51 percent of former foster kids in America are =
unemployed one to four years after leaving the system, MSPCC said.=20

    =20

    Half of young adults ages 18 to 24 in the United States still live =
with their parents, according to MSPCC. But foster children don't have =
the same network of support.=20

    =20

    "There's a cultural expectation that young people are adults at that =
age, but developmentally and psychologically, they're just not there," =
said Diane Gould, senior vice president of Advocates Inc., in =
Framingham. "Even in the healthiest kids, 18 to 21 is a time of enormous =
change."=20

    =20

    Despite a turbulent childhood, Shea is on her way to =
self-sufficiency. She went through about five foster homes, but has =
developed a positive relationship with a foster mother in Milford she =
has been living with since the age of 19. Shea signed out of the DSS =
system a couple months ago, but still lives with the foster parent and =
pays rent, she said.=20

    =20

    Shea got a job as a nursing assistant in a nursing home, and is =
saving money to move into her own place.=20

    =20

    Many others don't fare as well. Saulnier runs a federally funded =
housing program for homeless adults ages 18 to 22 in Somerville. These =
people typically need help getting off drugs, earning high school =
diplomas and developing job and life skills.=20

    =20

    At any give time, the program houses 15 residents and between four =
and six of them aged out of foster care, according to Saulnier.=20

    =20

    "They fall between the cracks of the adult system and the child =
system," she said. "The number of services and supports available to =
kids under 18 drops dramatically once they become young adults."=20

    =20

    Collins' study will last one year and consist of five pieces:=20

    =20

    =20
a.. Interviews with up to 300 foster kids who turned 18 in 2005.=20
    =20
    =20
a.. Interviews with a smaller set of young adults who returned to DSS =
after the age of 18.=20
    =20
    =20
a.. An examination of DSS demographic statistics, such as the percentage =
of foster kids who get high school diplomas.=20
    =20
    =20
a.. Interviews with social workers about kids who run away from DSS =
custody. The DSS lists 245 children as "on the run."=20
    =20
    =20
a.. Interviews with state officials and agencies that work with kids =
about what policies might help youth in transition.=20
    =20
    Michelle Banks, the DSS program supervisor for adolescent services, =
said she is excited about the Boston University study.=20
    =20
    The DSS relies on federal funding to staff 29 social workers who =
help youth ages 14 to 21 secure internships, job and financial skills, =
housing, vocational training and higher education. But there is not =
enough money to provide this service to everyone who needs it, Banks =
said.=20
    =20
    Banks's division also focuses its limited resources on hooking =
adolescents up with someone who can be a lifelong mentor, whether it be =
a former foster parent or family member.=20
    =20
    Local advocates say the Legislature must commit more money to the =
DSS to help former foster children avoid a life of drugs, crime and =
homelessness. But they aren't sitting idly by in the meantime.=20
    =20
    The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Task Force created by =
MetroWest nonprofit agencies is trying to secure funding for a resource =
center in Framingham that would serve adults ages 18 to 23.=20
    =20
    The task force surveyed local people in that age group and found =
that the public resources they need are scattered and difficult to =
access.=20
    =20
    "If they have five different needs, they have to go through five =
different doors to get those needs met," Gould said. The proposed =
Framingham center would provide a clearinghouse for any young adult in =
need of social services, not just former foster kids.=20
    =20
    The MSPCC recommended a number of other steps that could be =
undertaken by state policymakers, such as offering financial aid for =
college and vocational programs, and guaranteeing that mentally ill =
foster kids are eligible for Department of Mental Health services as =
adults.=20
    =20
    "These are the Commonwealth's forgotten children," the MSPCC wrote. =
"As 'parent,' the commonwealth bears the primary responsibility for =
helping these children transition to adulthood."=20
    =20
    (Jon Brodkin can be reached at 508-626-4424 or jbrodkin@cnc.com.)=20
    =20
   =20




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<META http-equiv=3DContent-Type content=3D"text/html; =
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<DIV><STRONG><FONT face=3DArial color=3D#993333>The state=92s =
=92forgotten children=92:=20
Study to address young adults=92 struggle to adjust after life in foster =

care</FONT></STRONG></DIV><STRONG><FONT face=3DArial color=3D#993333>
<DIV><BR></FONT></STRONG><FONT class=3DbodyDate><FONT face=3DArial =
color=3D#666666>By=20
<B>Jon Brodkin</B>/ Daily News Staff</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT class=3DbodyDate><FONT face=3DArial =
color=3D#666666><BR></FONT></FONT><FONT=20
class=3DbodyDate><FONT face=3DArial><FONT color=3D#666666>Sunday, August =
6,=20
2006&nbsp;</FONT><BR><IMG=20
title=3D"Ashley Shea, 21, right, poses with her foster mother, Donna =
Cournoyer, at their home in Milford. (Mike Springer photo)"=20
src=3D"http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/images/localRegional/ltpashleysh=
ea08062006.jpg"><BR></FONT></FONT><FONT=20
class=3DbodyFont><FONT class=3Dheadline =
face=3DArial><B>A</B></FONT><FONT face=3DArial=20
size=3D1>shley Shea moved into her first foster home at age 15, when her =
parents=20
kicked her out because she admitted she is a lesbian. <BR></DIV></FONT>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><FONT size=3D1><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8" =
type=3D"block"><FONT=20
      face=3DArial></FONT></FONT></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"It was scary, because you go into a =
complete=20
stranger=92s home, and you have no idea who this person is," said Shea, =
who grew=20
up in Northborough and now lives in Milford. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;But for many young adults, the scariest and =
most=20
dangerous part of the foster care experience is the end, when they leave =
state=20
custody and have to fend for themselves. Every year, researchers believe =
600 or=20
so Massachusetts residents "age out" of the foster care system. =
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A disproportionate number of these young =
adults,=20
ages 18 to 23, have mental illness, have no high school diploma, end up =
jobless,=20
homeless, on drugs or in jail, authorities say. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"If kids have a long-term experience in =
foster=20
care, they often don=92t have the same advantages that other kids have," =
said Mary=20
Collins, professor of social work at Boston University. "If they fail =
once, it=20
can be devastating." <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Collins is directing what she says is the =
first=20
statewide project in Massachusetts to examine the problems faced by =
former=20
foster kids. The study, which kicked off less than three weeks ago, was=20
commissioned by a task force consisting of state agencies and a range of =

nonprofit groups. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The Task Force on Youth Aging Out of DSS =
Care plans=20
to issue recommendations to the Legislature and DSS in the fall of 2007 =
aimed at=20
improving the lot of foster children when they enter the world of jobs =
and rent.=20
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Currently, advocates for youth in foster =
care say=20
the state Department of Social Services lacks the resources to prepare =
young=20
adults for the challenges they face upon leaving the system. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Ashley Shea, now 21, lauds her DSS social =
worker=20
for helping her learn skills like balancing a checkbook, but said the =
ongoing=20
adjustment to independence is difficult. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"It seemed to happen really fast, once I =
got a job=20
and started saving money," she said. "You have to learn all that stuff =
on your=20
own, how to pay bills, how to budget your money, kind of fast." =
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The latest DSS figures show the agency has =
custody=20
of 9,451 children younger than 18 years old, and provides a place to =
live to=20
another 1,307 young adults as old as 23. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;About 77 percent of children and young =
adults in=20
DSS placements are in foster homes. The rest stay in residential =
facilities.=20
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Youth "age out" of the system when they =
turn 18,=20
but are allowed to sign themselves back into foster care and stay until =
they are=20
23. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The DSS changed its rules a year ago to =
make it=20
easier for former foster kids to re-enter DSS, but that doesn=92t mean a =
young=20
adult is always matched with a foster parent, said Bonny Saulnier, vice=20
president for family-based services at Wayside Youth &amp; Family =
Support=20
Network in Framingham. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"The shortage of foster parents is so great =
that=20
DSS would likely prioritize kids under 18 for the rare slot," she said.=20
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The DSS is required to provide housing to =
clients,=20
so anyone who can=92t be matched with foster parents would be put in a =
residential=20
facility, an agency official said. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A survey in 2005 found that one-quarter of =
homeless=20
young adults in the state were previously in DSS custody, according to =
the=20
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), =
which=20
issued a policy paper on life after foster care last year. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Statistics on this population are scarce, =
but=20
national research has found that former foster kids are highly likely to =
be=20
unemployed, suffer mental illness, go to prison, become parents at a =
young age,=20
and become victims of violent crimes like assault and rape, according to =
the=20
MSPCC. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Thirty-nine to 51 percent of former foster =
kids in=20
America are unemployed one to four years after leaving the system, MSPCC =
said.=20
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Half of young adults ages 18 to 24 in the =
United=20
States still live with their parents, according to MSPCC. But foster =
children=20
don=92t have the same network of support. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"There=92s a cultural expectation that =
young people=20
are adults at that age, but developmentally and psychologically, =
they=92re just=20
not there," said Diane Gould, senior vice president of Advocates Inc., =
in=20
Framingham. "Even in the healthiest kids, 18 to 21 is a time of enormous =

change." <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Despite a turbulent childhood, Shea is on =
her way=20
to self-sufficiency. She went through about five foster homes, but has =
developed=20
a positive relationship with a foster mother in Milford she has been =
living with=20
since the age of 19. Shea signed out of the DSS system a couple months =
ago, but=20
still lives with the foster parent and pays rent, she said. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Shea got a job as a nursing assistant in a =
nursing=20
home, and is saving money to move into her own place. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Many others don=92t fare as well. Saulnier =
runs a=20
federally funded housing program for homeless adults ages 18 to 22 in=20
Somerville. These people typically need help getting off drugs, earning =
high=20
school diplomas and developing job and life skills. <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;At any give time, the program houses 15 =
residents=20
and between four and six of them aged out of foster care, according to =
Saulnier.=20
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"They fall between the cracks of the adult =
system=20
and the child system," she said. "The number of services and supports =
available=20
to kids under 18 drops dramatically once they become young adults." =
<BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Collins=92 study will last one year and =
consist of=20
five pieces: <BR></DIV>
<DIV>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </DIV>
<LI>Interviews with up to 300 foster kids who turned 18 in 2005. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
<LI>Interviews with a smaller set of young adults who returned to DSS =
after the=20
age of 18. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
<LI>An examination of DSS demographic statistics, such as the percentage =
of=20
foster kids who get high school diplomas. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
<LI>Interviews with social workers about kids who run away from DSS =
custody. The=20
DSS lists 245 children as "on the run." <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
<LI>Interviews with state officials and agencies that work with kids =
about what=20
policies might help youth in transition. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Michelle=
 Banks,=20
the DSS program supervisor for adolescent services, said she is excited =
about=20
the Boston University study. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The DSS =
relies on=20
federal funding to staff 29 social workers who help youth ages 14 to 21 =
secure=20
internships, job and financial skills, housing, vocational training and =
higher=20
education. But there is not enough money to provide this service to =
everyone who=20
needs it, Banks said. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Banks=92=
s division=20
also focuses its limited resources on hooking adolescents up with =
someone who=20
can be a lifelong mentor, whether it be a former foster parent or family =
member.=20
<BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Local =
advocates=20
say the Legislature must commit more money to the DSS to help former =
foster=20
children avoid a life of drugs, crime and homelessness. But they =
aren=92t sitting=20
idly by in the meantime. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The =
Mental Health=20
and Substance Abuse Task Force created by MetroWest nonprofit agencies =
is trying=20
to secure funding for a resource center in Framingham that would serve =
adults=20
ages 18 to 23. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The =
task force=20
surveyed local people in that age group and found that the public =
resources they=20
need are scattered and difficult to access. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"If =
they have=20
five different needs, they have to go through five different doors to =
get those=20
needs met," Gould said. The proposed Framingham center would provide a=20
clearinghouse for any young adult in need of social services, not just =
former=20
foster kids. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The =
MSPCC=20
recommended a number of other steps that could be undertaken by state=20
policymakers, such as offering financial aid for college and vocational=20
programs, and guaranteeing that mentally ill foster kids are eligible =
for=20
Department of Mental Health services as adults. <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"These =
are the=20
Commonwealth=92s forgotten children," the MSPCC wrote. "As =92parent,=92 =
the=20
commonwealth bears the primary responsibility for helping these children =

transition to adulthood." <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;(Jon =
Brodkin can=20
be reached at 508-626-4424 or jbrodkin@cnc.com.) <BR>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD height=3D8><SPACER height=3D"8" width=3D"8"=20
type=3D"block"></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<BR></LI=
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