SUFK2012-2Children who have experienced abuse and neglect often face physical and emotional health problems that stay with them for years. These children need access to consistent and ongoing health care to recover from abuse, including access to health coverage and access to doctors, counselors, or other health professionals when they are in need of care.

Recent changes in the health care system in Kentucky will allow all young people to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26. But what about children without parents to provide insurance? Recognizing that young people who leave foster care with no legally binding tie to a family should also have access to affordable health care, foster care youth will be able to retain Medicaid coverage up to age 26. This provision goes into effect January 1, 2014.

Youth who have spent time in foster care need access to physical and mental health services. Youth who are in the foster care system until they become an adult face multiple health risks.  It’s important they receive high quality health and mental health services to address the lingering impact of trauma they can experience well into adulthood. Youth in the child welfare system also have higher than average adverse childhood experiences such as having an incarcerated parent or witness domestic violence that directly correlate with future health challenges. Access to health care can help youth recover from trauma and can make a difference in their successful transition to adulthood.

We need to work to ensure all children have access to consistent health care and specifically help foster care youth and former foster care youth get connected with the Medicaid coverage for which they are eligible. The Office of the Health Benefit Exchange and kynect have been doing a great job letting people know about new health coverage options throughout the state. It’s important they also specifically focus outreach efforts to this population of youth who have aged out of foster care.

Stay up to date on Kentucky Youth Advocates work on economic security, health and other children’s issues by following Katie Carter on Twitter @katieElizCarter.