LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
If you are a youth in SRS foster care who made it through high school and wants to further your education, you don't have to pay tuition at Kansas public institutions such as vocational schools and colleges. If you are a Native American youth in tribal foster care, forget it.Carol Shopteese, a child welfare worker with the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas, told me about a youth under the jurisdiction of the tribal court who made it through high school and wants to graduate from college. When Carol tried to access the tuition waiver program for this youth, she was denied.Kansas and other states are doing a better job of helping youth who are leaving foster care because of age. In the past, foster youth reaching age 18 were simply out on their own. One researcher in Wisconsin said that people leaving prison in that state had more resources than youth leaving foster care. That changed in 1999 when Senator John Chafee authored a bill that put an emphasis on assisting these youth to make the transition from foster care to becoming productive members of our communities.Many states have recognized their responsibilities to these youth by adding benefits beyond those provided by the Chafee Act. In 2006, the Kansas legislature enacted the "Kansas foster child educational assistance act." In simple terms, this law provides free tuition at Kansas public vocational schools and colleges to youth aging out of foster care who were in the custody of the Secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. That is the rub. Children who are members of one of the Native American Tribes in Kansas are more likely to be in tribal foster care under the custody of a tribal court rather than SRS. Federally recognized tribes are sovereign nations within the United States. Many tribes have their own tribal courts and foster care systems to protect the interest of Indian children and families. Native American youth are eligible for benefits provided by the Chafee Act. The SRS Policy manual states: "Youth affiliated with the tribes and in custody or jurisdiction of the tribal court meet the same criteria as youth in the custody of the State of Kansas." This does not apply to the Kansas foster child educational assistance act because this provision was not written into the law. I am sure that this was just an oversight. Tell that to the 18 year old Sac and Fox youth trying to attain a college education.