Former Foster Kids Protest RI Funding Cuts

With Rhode Island facing a $117 million deficit, cuts are being made across the board, but a foster parents association says the cuts should not fall on the state's most vulnerable kids.

The kids who would be affected are those who age out of Rhode Islands foster care system. Four years ago, that age was lowered from 21 to 18. Advocates were outraged then, and now they say Governor Chafee is trying to cut from the only program that helps the kids who fall in between.

“In and out of group homes. In and out of foster care. I saw a lot of drug abuse, a lot of violence,” Ashley Cote said.

Cote aged out of the foster care system two years ago.

“I definitely missed out on my childhood, but I'm dealing with that now because I have the YESS program to help me with all of it,” Cote said.

The YESS program, which stands for young adults establishing self sufficiency, offers life skills classes, services and stipends for 230 kids just like Ashley. 46 of them would be cut off immediately if the Governor gets his way and slashes their funding 20%.

Executive Director Lisa Guillette says roughly 22% of kids who age out of foster care become homeless. It is a statistic she hoped to drive home in front of the House Finance Committee Tuesday.

“I'd hate to think an 18-year-old is making a decision between should I get my homework done or figure out where I'm going to sleep tonight,” Executive Director of the Foster Parents Association Lisa Gallant said.

While Representative John DeSimone of North Providence disagrees with cutting from the YESS program, he knows the money has to come from somewhere.

“We have to make cuts. There's no question we have to make cuts, but we have to be deliberate on which cuts we are going to make,” DeSimone said.

As the decision process continues, Ashley Cote waits and wonders when and if she will be one of the kids forced out of the program.

“It's a big deal not to have that support,” Cote said. “To have to do it on your own? It's not realistic whatsoever.”