Gov. Polis signs housing voucher program for homeless foster youth; Local nonprofit assists foster youth aging out
DENVER (KJCT) - Gov. Jared Polis signed several bills into law this week protecting foster care youth, some of the most vulnerable to homelessness after aging out of the foster care system.
Turning 18 is a milestone for most young adults, but it can be a daunting and uncertain time for those in foster care. “You always need that support and guidance throughout your life to navigate adulthood,” said Kimberly Raff, Founder and Executive Director of Foster Alumni Mentors.
Raff speaks from personal experience. She remembers a difficult childhood, entering the foster care system at 14. “I actually aged out of the foster care system when I was 17, in 1995.”
Flash forward to 2012, Raff went on to work for welfare and realized the youth in foster care are still aging out of the system with no proper guidance, assistance, or stability. “I felt I was doing a disservice to kids that are currently in foster care,” said Raff.
Raff founded Foster Alumni Mentors, a nonprofit that works with people who need assistance with housing, employment, and educational goals.
In Mesa County, there are approximately 190 kids in foster care; on average, ten kids will age out of the system yearly.
“Many of them end up struggling for a long time with that housing component,” said Raff.
This week Gov. Polis signed Senate Bill 082 into law. “This bill was designed to address that really critical issue and give us a new tool in our toolbox to support that and more than one in three young people who do need a little extra support and stability and finding housing after they leave care,” said Mollie Bradlee, Deputy Director, Office of Children, Youth and Families at Colorado Department of Human Services.
It creates a housing voucher program for foster youth aged 18 to 26 who have trouble finding housing. “In 2022, we found that 36% of our young people between the ages 19 and 21 reported experiencing homelessness in just their first few years after foster care,” said Bradlee.
Raff says they’re not just another number or a case but people who need the community’s support to understand their worth and value. “I just don’t want them to be forgotten. I don’t want them to continue to fall through the cracks when they’re our future.”
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