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New resources available for foster youth in Mississippi; New adoption opportunities and college tuition waivers

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 10:12 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s a day of celebration for extending new opportunities and offering different resources to young people in the state’s foster care system.

Traditionally there’s a lot of focus on what happens while kids are in foster care. But what about after or once they near the time they “age out”?

Bertie Bryant feels a sense of pride seeing Governor Tate Reeves sign House Bill 1313 into law.

“Everybody’s gonna have a chance to go to college,” Bryant said. “They’re not gonna have to worry about if they’re gonna have the money or not.”

Bryant was in foster care for 14 years and was among the young people who helped to get this new law passed. Still, she will be past the age to be eligible to reap the benefits.

“I think it could have been different because I had a three-year-old when I left care,” she said. “I could have gotten an education while I was in care with her... I could have had a full education in which I still do not have now.”

The law puts a million dollars towards scholarships for both current and former foster kids to go to college for free. Andrandella Lawyer also won’t qualify, but is thrilled to help the next generation of foster kids.

“It’s been wonderful, because I just believe that the struggles that I had I would would not want for youth younger than me or the youth that are coming up behind me,” she confessed. “So I feel like this is a wonderful opportunity for them because it opens up multiple doors for them.”

The scholarships will be available to young people under 25 beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. They have to have been in custody on or after their 13th birthday.

Meanwhile, more of the older foster youth could soon find forever homes.

“We are responsible for children who are in the state’s custody, and we need to do as good of a job as we possibly can at being a good custodian for them,” stated Andrea Sanders, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services. “But I’ve said to the governor before, and I’ve said to my staff, state agencies will always be a poor substitute for family.”

The Dave Thomas Foundation is putting $1.7 million into the effort of connecting foster kids in the state with adoptive homes as part of their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.

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