Colorado bill would provide a safety net for young adults aging out of foster care


    The Colorado State Capitol in Denver is pictured on June 11, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

    Each year, more than 200 young people age out of Colorado’s foster care system at 18 to find themselves without a permanent home or stable support network.

    That statistic comes from the text of a proposed state bill that would allow foster youths to remain eligible for certain benefits until age 21. House Bill 21-1094‘s sponsors, including Democratic Rep. Lindsey Daugherty of Arvada and Republican Rep. Tonya Van Beber of Eaton, aim to help level the playing field for these young people — many of whom are entering the workforce without a financial safety net and while still dealing with traumas born of childhood poverty, abuse and neglect.

    HB-1094 represents Colorado’s response to one provision of the federal coronavirus relief legislation signed into law by former President Donald Trump in December. In that legislation, Congress included targeted funding for a temporary benefits freeze for young people aging out of states’ foster care systems, meaning that during the pandemic, eligible young adults can continue to receive certain foster care benefits — such as help enrolling in Medicaid, securing housing and finding a job — that they’d otherwise be unable to receive after turning 18.

    State Rep. Lindsey Daugherty
    State Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, a Democrat from Arvada, represents Colorado House District 29. (Colorado General Assembly photo)

    The state’s response as laid out in HB-1094 would not only capitalize on the one-time federal funding to freeze foster care benefits but would also create a permanent transition program for aging-out foster youths who face barriers no matter the global health situation. The Colorado Department of Human Services had already been planning such a program before Congress passed the temporary benefits freeze.

    The transition program would be voluntary: Eligible young people aging out of foster care would decide whether or not to take advantage of the available benefits, which would come with more independence and personal responsibility than regular foster care.

    HB-1094 was introduced Feb. 16 and assigned to the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee. Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, a Democrat from Arvada, is the bill’s Senate sponsor.

    A fiscal impact statement was not immediately available.