Also beginning November 1st is National Adoption Month, and we must remember those children whom were never adopted. Compared to youth in permanent families, youth who age out of foster care have disproportionately high rates of serious physical, mental, and behavioral health issues. They are more likely to have health issues that affect their day-to-day functioning and more likely to need psychological and substance abuse counseling. One study found one-third of former foster care youth living at or below the poverty line, and more than one in five experiencing homelessness within a year of leaving foster care. Young adults who have aged out of foster care cannot afford to purchase health coverage or incur medical debt – they need to have access to quality services to address chronic health issues.
As advocates, we must encourage and support former foster youth in their efforts to enroll in health insurance. Medicaid coverage is a benefit for former foster youth who aged out of care between the ages of 18-21 and until they turn 26. This coverage will help this high-risk population receive health benefits, some of which are highlighted below:
- Medical care, including for chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes
- Vision exams and vision wear
- Substance abuse treatment, such as detox and outpatient services
- Mental health treatment and counseling
- Dental coverage
Beginning January 1st of 2014, the Department for Medicaid Services (DMS) and Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) ensured that youth exiting the foster care system know they are eligible to continue Medicaid coverage and assisted them in the enrollment process when they leave the state’s care. In Kentucky there are more than 4,000 former foster youth under the age of 26 who are eligible for these services.