$5 million going to help current and former foster care youth in Iowa

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Human Services announced a $5 million investment in pandemic relief for Iowa foster youth and alumni. The funds are made possible as part of the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA). CAA awarded Iowa DHS $4.7 million to create a pandemic response benefitting youth in and aging out of foster care and entering adulthood.

DHS will deliver Pandemic Relief for Iowa Foster Youth and Alumni primarily through contracted service providers, including YSS, which oversees the statewide Iowa Aftercare Services Network and Achieving Maximum Potential (AMP), the Iowa foster care youth council.

The relief includes direct payment to some foster care alumni. Young adults ages 18-26 who aged out of foster care may be eligible for a direct pandemic relief payment of $750.

Grace Kanioka entered the foster care system her freshman year of high school. Now, she’s a sophomore at the University of Iowa studying psychology. She’s also a participant with YSS’s aftercare program, and one of around 4,000 foster care alumni in Iowa who qualify for a piece of the $5 million in pandemic relief that the Iowa Department of Human Services is setting aside.

She says she’s already filled out her application, and is hopeful that others will also take advantage the opportunity. “It’s huge, it’s a huge sum. Especially where we’re at right now, I know a lot of people are impacted, not just foster kids but mentally, this year has taken a toll on everyone and just having at least a little bit of money takes that burden away,” says Kanioka.

YSS President and CEO Andrew Allen says this support is coming at a critical time. ”The pandemics been hard from an unemployment standpoint. Kids struggle to keep jobs, it’s been tough from a housing standpoint, without a job you’ve lost your income, it’s hard to stay housed. And it’s really impacted behavioral health, if you think about the stress and anxiety created in the midst of a pandemic,” says Allen.

YSS is working to reach the 4,000 foster care alumni in Iowa who may qualify. “Kids who age out of foster care are at risk for mental health issues, substance abuse disorder, incarceration, homelessness, human trafficking. Just imagine not having a family to fall back on,” says Allen.

Major components of the Pandemic Relief for Iowa Foster Youth and Alumni include:

  • Moratorium on Aging Out and Re-entry into Foster Care: In Iowa, youth in care typically must exit the system at age 18. DHS has suspended this age restriction and will not require youth to leave foster care due to their age through September 30, 2021, though they may voluntarily elect to do so. Young people who have aged out of foster care since Jan. 27, 2020 can re-enter care during this time and are encouraged to contact DHS at the following link or call your local DHS office:
  • Direct Payment to Foster Care Alumni: Young adults ages 18 to 26 who aged out of foster care may be eligible for a direct pandemic relief payment of $750. The Iowa Aftercare Services Network will administer an application process and make payments to eligible youth on behalf of DHS.
  • Extra Support for Teens in Foster Care: DHS is providing additional funds to reduce the isolation felt by many foster youth by supporting their participation in social, extracurricular, and cultural activities. Fo$ter Fund$ grants (temporarily up to $600 per child) are available to youth ages 14 and older who are currently in a foster care placement, including family foster care, group care, and supervised apartment living. Additionally, up to $300 per year is available to relative caregivers through a similar program called Kinship Funds. Both funds are administered by YSS through AMP.
  • Increased Education and Training Voucher Program (ETV) Funding: ETV contractor, Iowa College Aid, and DHS will offer an additional $2,500 summer payment to those students attending college in the 2020-2021 school year. Also, the annual maximum for the 2021-2022 school year will be increased to $12,000. Part time students will receive a pro-rated amount based on enrollment.

For more details on relief, and to apply, click here.

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