Youth formerly in foster care who have aged out of the system are now eligible for extended Medicare services under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In states like Texas however, where the legislation has been met with huge opposition, informing thousands of young adults from the age of 18 to 26 that care is now available, is going to be a challenge.
An estimated 1,500 teens age out of the foster care system in Texas annually. These young adults, often without the proper resources to establish a new life independently, frequently fall to homelessness, crime, and unplanned pregnancy. Reacquiring healthcare could mean increased opportunity to find stability. However, because child welfare is controlled by the state, it becomes the state’s responsibility to inform youth who have already aged out of their new Medicaid options. This is a challenge for an already over worked system that tends to focus on the almost 12,000 children who are still currently in care.
“I’ve worked to get people signed up for the state insurance at my previous agency in Oregon. It was a success. I’ve seen the numbers go up for the people who can be served. But its different in Texas,” said Corey Jackson, a current Family Development Specialist at Covenant Kids who recently moved from his previous agency in Oregon. “It’s very slow on the uptake.”
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, who manages the state foster care system, has stated that it is doing what it can to help bring information of the new policy to young adults.
“Overall, DFPS is making every effort to notify young adults formerly in foster care of the new Medicaid program,” Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said in an interview with the Texas Tribune. This effort includes providing information about Medicaid updates in seminars, trainings, and other services provided to youth who have aged out.
Medical services are just one piece of what young adults are lacking in order to establish a higher quality of life. The most important thing missing according to Seth Miller, who aged out of the system when he was 18, is family.
“One family,” he told a local ABC affiliate during an interview last year. “Even if I had to live in a box — family.”
Miller was adopted and lived in his adoptive home for seven years before allegations of abuse broke the family apart. He was sent to multiple foster homes afterward. At 18 he moved out of his last foster home and spent time living in his car before a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) raised money on his behalf for an apartment. Working full time at McDonalds, he said he believes the system let him down, but doesn’t want that to impede on his goal of graduating from high school. His hope is that the past has made him strong enough to handle the future.
“I know I’m tough because I went through a lot,” he told the station. “And I’m going to make it. Because I have to. That’s all I have. That’s the only choice I have.”