Foster-care children need encouragement, not requirements
House Bill 1267, which would require all youth in foster care above the age of 15 be given a visit and consultation to a Missouri state university, state community or technical college before exiting the foster care system, is an ineffective overreach of the governmentís rights and responsibility.
The bill is geared toward incentivizing college attendance among foster care youth, who are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and crime according to the Missouri Department of Social Services. Proponents of the bill claim that Missouri will see long-term benefits to society and the economy.
While we fully believe the intent of the bill is a very positive one, we are not at all comfortable with the thought of government telling children what to do. The government simply does not have the right, and should never have the power.
However, the government does have the right to advocate its intentions with HB 1267 by fixing the presently broken public education system that it is already responsible for, instead of beginning another controlling endeavor it can fail at implementing.
Requiring foster care children to make college visits is an extraneous, paperwork-heavy and potentially costly process that is simply unnecessary given the fact it is already the public education school systemís duty to make higher education as accessible as possible for students. Not just a particular minority of students, but all students.
While it might be argued that foster care children need particular attention, (and the supposed long-term benefit is a bold statement to make), it is not at all fair for a youth who is not in foster-care but in a difficult financial situation to not receive the same opportunity.
Efforts need to be redirected toward improving the public education counseling system to make it more knowledgeable, effective and personalized, thereby incentivizing collegiate attendance for all students. The government should provide high school counselors with the funding, training and resources they need to provide effective assistance.
Yes, HB 1267 does ensure that very specific, important details such as the application process, financial assistance and career planning are worked out to the benefit of the student, but thereís no reason those same ideas canít be implemented in high school counseling if we make a stronger effort to improve the public education system.
If the government is adamant about helping foster care children attend college, it should very strongly encourage, not require, foster care facilities to offer the same visit and consultation mandated by the bill without binding students to a government dictation of what they should do with their lives. While the childís family support system still holds the right to waiver the requirement, the government should never come this close to taking over the parentsí role.
Rather than force a potentially unwilling youth to visit a college that is only going to give a biased sales pitch, it is much more effective to have an objective, caring counselor offer the same resources and guidance in a subjective, agreeable way. Itís time that government stop overstepping its boundaries to control subjects it has no right to and fix the failed responsibilities staring it right in the face.
17 April 2012