Child Welfare

A Time for Altruism

September 27, 2021 | National

Foster youth are on the cusp of a crisis in the middle of a pandemic. If our representatives in Washington D.C. don’t act fast, thousands of foster youth will age out of foster care on October 1st, and many more will lose a lifeline to flexible cash assistance that young people like me fought for. We need Congress to pass legislation that extends the protections included in the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act immediately. If that doesn’t happen, Governor Hochul – our first woman governor and a champion for children — needs to step in. The question is, why haven’t they acted?

I’m good at asking questions. They are direct and specific. I learned this practice over my two decades in foster care.  And, as a paralegal in the Queens District Attorney’s Office. It’s how you get to the truth, and with the truth one can make better informed decisions. How do we expect young people to face aging out with COVID-19 still ravaging our communities?  Foster care doesn’t happen in a vacuum. 

The child welfare system is akin to the criminal justice system, stealing time from people, including young people like me. I did not get to enjoy my childhood because I wanted to be sure that when I had to leave foster care and the support stopped, I would be able to sustain myself. Instead of enjoying my adolescence, I passed up a lot of social opportunities to focus on getting ready to be on my own. I realized that I had a very short window of time to position myself for adulthood. 

This is what it is like for young people who “age-out” of foster care. You are on your own. Being a single adult making a barely decent salary puts you in a tight position where you can’t really afford anything outside of your basic necessities. At the same time, many of us don’t qualify for public assistance either — we are just getting by. 

As a young person coming out of foster care you need support, you need a safety net, and at times like this, in the middle of a global pandemic, where some people are leaning on their families, we don’t have that option. Many of us are essential workers and do not have the option to work remotely or stay home.

That’s why so many young people rose up and fought for the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act and the federal protections that are about to expire on September 30; they fought in order to ensure that older youth could stay in foster care if they need to and to make direct cash assistance available to thousands of current and former foster youth during this crisis.

For a significant number of young people like myself, and their children, this dedicated aid has been a lifeline. We have young children to feed and bills to pay. Many of us have had to pause school or been laid off.  Our communities have felt the brunt of the pandemic and we’ve lost the most to COVID. We can’t just cut that life line while cases are still spiking and our communities are far from recovered. Is ending this support for our nation’s foster youth a moral or reasonable fiscal choice?

The answer is no. That’s why Congress has to act now and let young people stay in foster care if they need to, and get emergency money and other support to make it through the pandemic.

I am calling on my representatives in Washington D.C. like Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clark to pass HR 5167 to extend the safety net that kept so many kids like me from homelesness and hunger. 

Here’s another question: Are you with us?

This blog was written by Dareth Ogle. Dareth Ogle is twenty-five years old and a member of the Fair Futures Youth Advisory Board in New York City. She aspires to become a lawyer. She wants to study and practice in the areas of antitrust, human, and children’s rights. Dareth was in foster care for a total of 20 years, and has learned a great deal about the child welfare system. She has observed the good, bad, and indifferent outcomes for herself and her peers, which is what fires her passion around advocacy, education, and legal work. She has served as a residential counselor, paralegal, and volunteer in many capacities.