House passes Benham, Ortitay bill to help kids in kinship care

Would expand foster care tuition waiver program

HARRISBURG, June 27 – Children in kinship care are a step closer to broader educational opportunities after the House today unanimously passed legislation authored by state Reps. Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny, and Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny/Washington.

Benham said H.B. 668 would extend the Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program – which provides tuition and fee waivers for children in foster care – to children in kinship care, who face many of the same obstacles to accessing postsecondary education.

“For more than 200,000 Pennsylvania children in kinship care, a grandparent or other family member’s love and nurture can provide a critical sense of stability at a time of tremendous upheaval,” Benham said. “But while that emotional support can be essential, kids in kinship care still face practical, financial needs – including access to higher education – that are often beyond their family caregivers’ means.

“By expanding eligibility for the Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program, our bill would ensure that children in kinship care have the same opportunities as those in foster care to pursue their career dreams as they mature into young adults.”

“Many times unpredictable events lead to family participation in kinship care,” Ortitay said. “As a result, while they may want to help with the cost of post-secondary education, it might not be possible. This bill will help remove a barrier to further education for these young adults who avoided foster care but face many of the same financial challenges. Thank you to Representative Benham who helped shepherd this important legislation through the House.”

The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.