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'It was really hard to make it on my own': Former foster youth creates bill to extend foster care services

Posted at 12:55 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 13:39:53-04

MAGIC VALLEY — The transition to adulthood is a scary and difficult process and for foster youth, that process can be even more difficult.

For Ivy Smith, who entered the foster care system at the age of 12 and was not match or reconnected with a family by 18, she was forced to find her own way.

“It was really hard to make it on my own, but luckily I was able to build a support system for myself but I know not every foster youth is that lucky," Smith said.

In many states throughout the nation including Idaho, when a foster youth is not matched or reconnected to a family, the government pushes them out of the foster care system. Last year, 83 foster youth in Idaho aged out of the system and were forced to make it on their own.

“I had to figure out how to get a license and get a car and without having those things it’s hard to get a job if you don’t have transportation. All of these things just coupled up upon each other," Smith said.

"luckily I was able to build a support system for myself but I know not every foster youth is that lucky," Smith said.

While researching for a class on what happens to foster youth after they age out of the system, Ivy found one in four of those who do age out will instantaneously become homeless, 71% of females will become pregnant before 21 and 70% of those foster youth will be incarcerated within two years after leaving care.

After seeing these troubling statistics, Ivy decided to take matters into her own hands.

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“I had all this research and I needed to do something with it and so I took it to legislators and community partners such as Idaho voices for children and I wanted to do something about it," Smith said.

This is what led her to create House Bill 336, a bill that will give foster youth who are close to aging out of the system the opportunity to extend care services until the day they turn 21 as long as they are employed or enrolled in college courses.

“Currently Idaho doesn’t really provide much help during those few years of transition from foster care to adulthood and we see some terrible outcomes because of this so with this bill youth will be able to stay in foster care until age 21," Christine Tiddens, Director of the Idaho Voices for Children, said.

During her research, Ivy also found 50% of foster youth will graduate high school by the time they are 18, 3% will enroll in college and 1% will graduate college.

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"That's a statistic I've known and grown up with for a very long time and I've worked hard to be a part of that 1%," Smith said.''

Which is why she says she was emotional when the bill passed the house and the senate and will give other foster youth a chance to also attend college and be part of that 1%.

“I will admit I cried so many happy tears. The day that it passed it was just an overwhelming feeling of just grateful that knowing that future foster youth will not have to struggle the same ways that I did," Smith said.