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Foster Care Fix Requested for Disabled

Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilties Director Barbara Palmer
Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

It's been two years since Florida's Legislature passed a law extending foster care from age 18 to 21, for youth aging out of the system who want to stay. But the law has had some unintended consequences.

Children's advocates say extended foster care has been a success for young adults who need more time to complete school due to bureaucratic delays. 

But for those who also have disabilities have run into problems: specifically it's unclear which state agency pays for which services -- the Department of Children and Families or the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

“We’ve struggled with this for two years, and it shouldn’t be this way," said said Barbara Palmer, director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. "They shouldn’t have to choose whether they stay in foster care or whether they want to get services from us.”

The idea behind the law was to give young adults more time to prepare for independence. But children's advocates say the state needs to come up with another strategy for those kids who can't live independently due to severe disabilities --- and who will need more services for a longer period of time. Palmer is asking lawmakers to fix that in the upcoming legislative session.

“We want everyone, especially those in foster care, to get the services that they need, but also to have those nurturing families with them," she said. "We don’t want them to have to make a choice.”

Margie Menzel is a reporter with WLRN in Miami. WLRN is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.