Rare is the high school senior who is ready at 18 years old to live on his or her own with no financial or emotional support. That is the abrupt deadline for exiting Florida foster care. But starting next year, a new state law that Gov. Rick Scott signed last month will bring some commonsense flexibility that will allow foster children to have a more normal transition to independence. That's good for the children and for society, which has an interest in them becoming productive adults.
Under SB 1036, 18-year-olds who stay in school, start college or begin a job can stay with foster families or transition to some other kind of assistance through age 21. Just as significantly, the state won't shut the door on those who opt to move on. They can return to foster care at any time up until 21 if they find they still need some help.
In April, Scott also signed into law HB 215, which gives greater discretion to foster parents to decide which extracurricular or social activities a child can participate in, rather than requiring approval from a caseworker. That will normalize foster care a bit as children no longer will have to wait for government approval before they attend a sleepover or play a sport.
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has called these efforts the most important she's ever sponsored. Foster children, including the 1,000-plus who turn 18 each year, will undoubtedly agree.