The one-time payment is expected to support 4,000 Arkansans.
New COVID-19 relief funding will assist youth and young adults who have experienced foster care in Arkansas to help them during the ongoing pandemic. The Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services announced the new initiative Monday. Eligible individuals must apply by Aug. 31 to receive the money.
The payments, which will be funded by the federal Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act, will be one-time, direct payments of at least $750 to Arkansans 16 to 26 years old who have experienced foster care at some point between the ages of 16 and 21. DCFS officials estimate about 4,000 youth are eligible for payments.
Exact payment amounts will be based on the number of approved applicants. Payments will be issued by mail by Sept. 30 to the address provided on the application form.
These payments are an important way to “provide support that will make a positive, lasting difference,” said Crystal Jones, the Transitional Youth Services Program Manager for DCFS.
“It can be challenging for youth who have experienced foster care to transition out of the system in the best of times,” Jones said. “Doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic has made it that much harder, and we know these youth and young adults may face real issues in employment, housing, transportation and other areas.”
COVID-19 has exacerbated racial inequities in the child welfare system, particularly for Black and multiracial children, youth and families, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study analyzed data from child welfare programs in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich. The homes included in this study saw a 9 percent decrease in Black children leaving foster care between 2019 and 2020. These children also experienced the lowest reunification rates with their families.
Arkansans eligible for the new relief funding program can submit a request for a payment at ar.gov/fostercarepayments.