DORAL, FL – Foster care children and their caregivers in Florida will now have more funding due to a bill signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis that benefits family members who become caregivers, and makes more foster kids eligible for tuition waivers at state colleges and universities.
This means that although some Floridians, who are currently in or have aged out of foster care, can already apply for tuition and fee waivers at state colleges and universities, now the eligibility criteria will be expanded to include other populations.
Approximately 69,000 Floridians can already qualify for the program but with this bill, it is expected to nearly double that number, making another 62,000 students eligible.
Senate Bill 7034 will now impact students who have been placed in a shelter, were declared dependent, or had their parents’ rights terminated and who are or were in out-of-home care at age 18, who have been reunited with a parent but spent at least 18 months in out-of-home care after the age of 14, and are Pell Grant-eligible, or those who were placed in a permanent guardianship and remain there until turning 18 or enrolls in an eligible institution before turning 18.
“All these kids deserve an opportunity,” DeSantis said. “And we’re going to do what we can to make sure that their dreams and hopes and aspirations can become a reality in a loving home,” he added while signing the bill at Miami Dade College.
DeSantis also stated that the new bill is intended to offer kids in the foster system a greater chance at independence and to incentivize more Floridians to become caregivers.
“For many of the kids in the system, attending and graduating college is defying the odds,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris, who attended the bill signing.
“Legislation like this helps us stack the deck in their favor even more,” she said. “We’re also excited that the funding can be used to support vocational programs and other workforce development options.”
The law will also make funding available to help foster families pay for child care — and increases stipends for relatives and family friends who become foster parents.
The legislation boosts monthly payments for certain relative and non-relative caregivers to the same level that other licensed foster parents currently receive.
“When a relative or close family friend steps up and fosters a child, it can be a very positive scenario for that child. Yet right now, they do receive some assistance, but we recognize they needed to be at the same level as all other foster parents,” said DeSantis.
Photo by: Unsplash.com