The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 20, 2013

Our View: A way to go back

The Joplin Globe

— When 18-year-olds leave home, they usually have the opportunity to return once they learn the grass isn’t always greener.

Not so for those living in foster care.

Under current Missouri law, 17-year-old foster teens can decide that once they turn 18, they can opt out of the system. But there’s no going back.

That means they no longer are insured under Medicaid. They may not have the same opportunities for college scholarships, and even worse, they are out there fending for themselves

One in five who make that decision end up homeless.

Sen. Jolie Justus, of Kansas City, has introduced a bill that would allow teens to re-enter the system if they find themselves in need of a second chance.

The bill appears to have bipartisan support and is a reasonable approach to filling a gap.

Only a handful of teens are mature enough to leave home at 18. Some of those in foster care do so in order to reunite with biological families, perhaps hoping for that “real family” feeling.

When that doesn’t happen, they find themselves in a dead-end situation.

We would urge our representatives and Sen. Ron Richard to seriously weigh the merits of the idea.

Consider your own teens. Would you expect them to be independent at age 18? Would they be resourceful enough to work, attend college and live on their own? We doubt it.

Under this bill, teens would have to petition the court to re-enter the system. They would likely live in state-operated group residences.

Not ideal. Not like a “real family.” But far better than living on the streets.