Foster Families Wait and Wait to See if Benefits Are Extended

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Ray and Barb Jones have been foster parents for more than 20 years. Marcus, Joseph and John are all 16 and in foster care. Once they turn 18 and finish high school they will lose their state provided Medicaid health insurance.

Governor Doyle has proposed extending that insurance to all foster kids through age 21. Foster care advocates say that support can make the difference between flourishing and failing.

"Without that health care support and the support it gives them to find a job or go to school quite often they're up against it and end up in dire circumstances–homeless, in corrections systems and worse," says John Grace, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of Family and Children's Agencies.

Ray and Barb were at the Capitol Tuesday because the Joint Finance Committee is expected to remove the extended benefits from the budget.
They want the lawmakers to see the faces of those who will suffer.

"They start falling down in the cracks of the system and going to pieces. They can't manage an apartment and health insurance," says Ray Jones.

It's not often that 16 year olds worry about health insurance. "When I turn 18 I hope to get some insurance because I fear about what I'm going to do," says Marcus Hinton.

The child care issue was supposed to be second on the agenda. Two hours after the meeting was supposed to start, the Joint Finance Committee still hadn't started. The Jones family had to go home to pick up their other child. They say the whole experience has been a frustrating lesson in how state politics works.

"I want to see these guys and I want to hear the vote but we're not going to be here," says Marcus.

"Oh, they saw us all here," says Barb Jones. "We had 40 people here. What are they gonna do? Lets postpone it for an hour and a half. Probably that's not what–well maybe it is. I don't know."

As a ward of the state, Joseph Jones says these lawmakers are his other parents. He has a message for them. "Hi Mom and Dad. I'm always watching and I don't like what I see."

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