TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a bill to financially assist more caregivers of children in need and help other children who were in the foster care system attend college or a state university.
The bill will expand access to monthly payments for caregivers of foster children by giving parents and non-parents the same amount of money as licensed foster parents.
It will also allow more foster children to be exempted from paying tuition and fees at state colleges and universities. The state already allows some foster youth to receive tuition and fee waivers. But the bill, which comes into force on July 1, will extend the criteria to the following children who have been through the shelter system, who have been the subject of addiction proceedings or whose parents’ rights have been terminated:
- Children who are or were in care outside.
- Children who have spent at least 18 months in outside care but have been reunited with their parents.
- Children who were adopted out of state care.
- Children who have been placed in permanent guardianship and remain there until they turn 18 or who enrolled in a qualifying institution before they turn 18.
“All of these children deserve an opportunity and we are going to do what we can to make sure their dreams, hopes and aspirations come true in a loving home,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis signed the invoice (SB 7034) at Miami Dade College, alongside Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Senate President Wilton Simpson and other state lawmakers, including Sense. Ileana Garcia, R-Miami, and Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah.
Nuñez said Miami Dade College is a “symbol of hope and opportunity for so many in our community” and has a “strong support network for students coming out of foster care.” .
Simpson, who was adopted aged 6, said the bill takes a “holistic” approach to helping vulnerable children while they are in the system and on their way out.
He welcomed the fact that the bill seeks to create parity with the rate currently paid to approved foster families and certain related and unrelated caregivers, and how the tuition waiver could have a long-lasting impact. term on the lives of vulnerable children.
“Think of how many other problems in our society we could solve, right?” said Simpson.
DeSantis said the bill is a commitment to “adoption and foster care” and sends a clear message that Florida is committed “to the proposition that every life matters.”