Sen. Nancy Detert was surprised to find out there was an amendment to her bill to extend foster care until age 21, but she was brought to tears when she learned what it said: Thanks to Senate President Don Gaetz, the bill will be named the Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act.
"It's a legacy and I thank you for putting my name on it," Detert said, later adding that "Anyone who has heard these kids is their champion."
The bill (SB 1036) passed the Senate 38-0. Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, said he temporarily postponed a vote on House Bill 1315 earlier this week in order to take up the Senate version, which looks certain to pass.
The bill would give teens who currently "age out" of the system at 18 a "safety net" and allow them to stay in foster care until age 21.
With the new bill, kids will stay in foster care until they graduate high school or get their GED. There will be some stricter educational requirements for foster care kids to receive a monthly Road to Indepedence stipend; they'll have to attend post-secondary or vocational education for nine hours (about three college classes) and work part-time although there are exemptions. In addition, there will be a payment system to cover room and board, utilities and fixed expenses instead of the young people making payments themselves. Kids can also choose not to accept any Road to Independence money.