Former Foster Youth Face Cut

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Tallahassee, FL -- January 27, 2012 --

Derrick Riggins was first placed in foster care at two. He was beaten, sexually abused and shipped from home to home.

“I went back to my mother and then eventually around the age of 12, 13 I was placed in foster care,” said Derrick.

When he turned 18, Derrick fled, enrolled at FAMU and paid his bills with student loans. It was a struggle to make ends meet. Derrick didn’t know the state offers free tuition and a monthly stipend for living expenses to kids who aged out of the foster care system. When he found out, it made all the difference.

He graduated at 23, enrolled in grad school at FSU and received a master’s degree.

“Without that I wouldn’t be standing here today, an intern in Washington DC, working on the Senate Finance Committee, getting ready for law school. These dollars truly help,” said Derrick.

The independent living program that helped Derrick is being targeted for budget cuts. State revenues are down two billion dollars. Lowering the age limit on the stipend from 23 to 21 could save 11 million dollars.

“(for) The ones that are really succeeding it will be a disincentive and it will stop them from being able to finish,” said Christina Spudeas.

Spudeas, the Executive Director of Florida’s Children First, says the cut would pull the rug out from under students, just as they’re getting to their feet.

“That’s when they are really becoming really stable and that’s the time when they need that support just to finish that college degree,” said Supdeas.

Next Monday Children’s Week begins at the state capitol. Advocates will take their message to lawmakers hoping to save the program in a tough budget year.

Another reason advocates argue former foster kids need more time to graduate from college is because, they switch schools so many times that their academic records sometimes get lost. In many cases they don’t finish high school until they are 19 or 20.

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  • by Ann on Jan 29, 2012 at 03:27 PM
    I don't feel sorry for any of the college aged foster folks. They can get a job and put themselves through school just like I did. I am sick of my tax dollars supporting you.
    • reply
      by PirateCafe on Jan 29, 2012 at 03:44 PM in reply to Ann
      They don't want your pity OR your hand-outs - you've completely missed the point. You don't know what you are talking about and until you educate yourself on all the issues related to foster care, your opinion is neither informed nor credible. Just like that of Rep. Matt Hudson.
  • by PirateCafe Location: Wacissa on Jan 29, 2012 at 05:38 AM
    To the commentators who say they are former foster parents: as a nearly 50 year old who grew up in Florida's foster care system and is able to take care of myself, I can see why you are *former* foster parents, or should be. Did you padlock the refrigerator so the kids couldn't eat? Foster children have already been victimized and neglected - heck, that's why you came into the picture. Your commentary exposes YOUR problems, not the foster kids. I know Derrick Riggins. I have stood side-by-side with him at the Legislature and testified on bills relating to foster care and limitations on liability. I was there with Derrick when Rep. Mike Horner referred to foster kids as "lawsuits waiting to happen." It was as offensive then as the prejudicial statement Rep. Baxley's used as justification to cut RTI funds because they were being spent on "$600 dogs and rims." Derrick's success is due in no small part on his willingness to work hard. The RTI/IL programs have helped make him a productive member of our community, and is the EXACT outcome taxpayers expect of their tax dollars. Derrick is an example of how the system can and does work, and that a little investment goes a long, long way. Anyone who argues differently doesn't know the first thing about foster care, or are politically motivated and are actively working against these programs.
    • reply
      by Finally on Jan 30, 2012 at 07:09 AM in reply to PirateCafe
      Thank you for your informative and intelligent comments, PirateCafe. People like Ann jump on here all the time and complain about how they have to support other people with their tax dollars. They are so blessed to be in a position to actually help someone, whether voluntarily or involuntarily :) and still find so many reasons to complain and be hateful to those who don't have what they have. I, for one, will never be sick or tired of "supporting" people who are in need. It is our God given duty to help those in need. I cannot believe that people can read an article that says a boy was sexually abused and neglected since he was 2 and then have the nerve to say they are sick of supporting someone like that???? All I can do is shake my head and pray.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 28, 2012 at 05:57 AM
    The issue here is not money. These kids have the opportunity to go to college just like every other kid in the US. For those that are dedicated to getting a degree, money won't stop them. They'll work their way through, get loans, and do what it takes. These foster kids have this same opportunity. The issue is how they are raised. They are raised in a system that has taught them to be dependent on the government. I used to have foster kids, and I know from the kids I had as well as the other foster kids and parents I know that this is where the issue is. These kids have no dedication to anything accept what the government can offer them. They have access to grants and financial aid just like the other kids, and shouldn't need extra for college. They need to learn to be independent now! They need to be empowered, not herded.
    • reply
      by smarty on Jan 28, 2012 at 06:45 PM in reply to
      Ok yea the system is messed up for kids in foster care. I was a foster parent myself. But it is not the kids fault its the system. They train the kids to be dependent on the system. They teach them if someone correct their bad behavior they can be placed in another foster home and then the foster parents are attacked. Yes I know some of the foster homes are bad. But when a kid is moved from home to home no and no one teaches them to become stable individuals. The extra money helps alot and its far too many who don't even know how to access the independent living money nor how to stay on independent living because they are so unstable. The whole system is messed up.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jan 30, 2012 at 04:45 AM in reply to smarty
        I'm not saying it's the kids fault, but the kids are taught to use the system, and this extends into adulthood. They need to be weened from the government and learn how to be productive instead of always getting handouts from the taxpayers. It really doesn't matter at this point who's fault it is.
    • reply
      by Jeff on Jan 29, 2012 at 04:36 AM in reply to
      Did they make you stop being a foster parent because you continued to re-victimize the children? You sound like a horrible foster parent to not recognize these children were victimized and placed into care for THEIR protection.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jan 30, 2012 at 04:43 AM in reply to Jeff
        No, I left because I felt like nothing anyone could do would help these kids because of the messed up system. So messed up in fact that the system punishes good foster parents - you have to be there to see it. My comments only come from seeing the system and how the kids learn to navigate through the system. They learn the skills to be dependent on someone else, and these skills(habits) are hard to get rid of. If you don't think the kids figure out how to use the system to their advantage you haven't really dealt with foster kids. How many years did you foster kids? I already know because it doesn't take long to see this in the kids, and obviously you have no idea.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:54 AM in reply to
          Yes, these children learn to be dependent on the system just as your biological children learned to be dependent on you. In essence the system is their parent.
        • reply
          by Jeff on Jan 30, 2012 at 07:03 PM in reply to
          I spent 13 years in foster care in the old HRS system. Seven of those in a foster home with a demeaning, demanding, foster mother. The system didn't teach me to be dependent. Perhaps YOU weren't doing enough to encourage independence; maybe you weren't providing the solid foundation from which the foster kids could learn independence. I don't know. But I do know a quitter when one writes a response such as yours. You gave up on the kids, which is what keeps they system from becoming better.
  • by Renee on Jan 28, 2012 at 03:51 AM
    What happens when parents can't afford to send their kids to college? The kids get off their butts and WORK for it. The State of Florida did NOT create these kids. After high school graduation, they should be OFF the State's "payroll" Why should the fist ER kids get MORE than other kids? People work hard, raise their kids but can't afford to pay for college. This policy of the State of Florida is discrimination against good parents. Rewarding the idiots that birth but can't parent by showing them "we'll take care of your problem."
    • reply
      by Jeff on Jan 29, 2012 at 04:33 AM in reply to Renee
      I grew up in the foster care system in Florida, Pensacola to be exact. I spent 13 years in care when the "bad ol' HRS" ran the system. The foster care system is not perfect, and has needed reform *forever*; these stipends assist foster kids who have been victimized and neglected. By helping this group of young adults obtain an education, the result is they become productive members of society, taxpayers and voters, and they become the neighbors and community members all of us rely on to provide a good environment for our families. Renee, IMHO, you should have stopped after you entered your name, before you exposed the fact that you have no clue what you are talking about. Rewarding the idiots? Are you referring to foster kids as idiots? That this support is a reward? I find your lack of knowledge of this to be insulting. This is just as insulting as Rep. Mike Horner referring to all foster kids as "lawsuits waiting to happen." I *know* Derrick! I know his story, and I have advocated beside him in the legislature, and I'm privileged to consider him my friend and brother. What Derrick has been able to do and accomplish as a young adult who aged out of foster care is extraordinary, and if you had any sense you would recognize THIS is the outcome everyone should be hoping for. Derrick, you rock!
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jan 30, 2012 at 06:53 AM in reply to Jeff
        Derrick is a good dexample. He started going to school doing whatever it takes(working, loans, whatever needed to be done). He would have completed college whether or not the state GAVE him money and paid tuition. He says it made a difference, and I'm sure it helped, but I know(and he does too) that he would have done what was necessary to succeed and complete his degree. This is what it takes to succeed, and this is not taught in the foster-care system. In fact, just the opposite is taught(let the government do it all). If you want to succeed, the stipend from the state will not be the determining factor. The desire to succeed will overcome the obstacles to getting a degree no matter what they are. The will to succeed will be the determining factor. This needs to be taught to every child(not just foster kids).
        • reply
          by Jeff on Jan 30, 2012 at 07:12 PM in reply to
          Many of us have made it despite the system. There is no doubt in my mind that Derrick would have done anything for the outcome he's achieved - we agree 100% on that. Make no mistake about it, the Independent Living program is intended to help teach these young adults what they need to achieve success. The improvements in HB 417 could very well negate the need for RTI cuts because of the accountability measures built into it.
    • reply
      by Mia on Jan 30, 2012 at 07:34 AM in reply to Renee
      You can't compare apples with oranges. The "other" kids you are referring to come from a home where they actually have parents, hopefully who have loved them and raised them with some self-esteem and have offered guidance, instilling a work ethic in them since childhood. Foster children are exactly that, children who have been fostered (although the true definition doesn't add up). They don't come from a stable home, they have no supportive parents, and many have been abused and obviously neglected. Are you that materialistic to think these children are getting "more" than other kids? This isn't a reward to the "idiots", they obviously could not care less or the child wouldn't have been in foster care. This is about supporting a child who doesn't have anyone to support them. And sadly all the money that pays for their tuition could never compare to having been given the opportunity of a safe and secure childhood. I'm not judging you, but based on your comment, I feel a little sorry for you. You should really re-think your values in life. My thoughts from reading this article were how sad it is that only 3% are graduating college even though it is fully paid. That says a lot. These kids need way more than money, they need someone who will just care and not give up on them.
  • by random momma on Jan 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
    Derrick, you rock. Keep up the good work, you're quite an inspiration!
  • by m on Jan 27, 2012 at 05:52 PM
    another example of "I got mine and you ain't gonna get yours if I can stop it."
    • reply
      by Caren on Jan 28, 2012 at 06:29 PM in reply to m
      That's the jest of it.
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