A bill to extend foster care benefits in Louisiana from age 18 to as much as 21 years old in some cases was passed by the Senate Finance Committee. The money committee agreed to the legislation, even though it will cost the state an additional million dollars. Bossier City Senator Ryan Gatti of Bossier City says it’s a tragedy when a foster child gets put on the street as they turn 18.

“About 20 percent of them end up in prison…. about 25 percent end up homeless.”

After benefits for foster children are taken away, if they end up in trouble, Gatti says more money is spent taking care of their needs in jail that in a foster home.

“We end up paying more for them where they end up than if we do what this bill asks for, and to extend what is considered to be the practice at this point for foster kids.”

Gatti believes that most 18-year-olds will stay in foster care if benefits are extended to 21.

“But I do think that if we rebuild our system to where children are seeing the benefit from being in foster care, I think you will see more and more children saying, ‘you know, I want to stay in this program towards graduation.’”

One-million-dollars from the BP settlement would be used to finance the extension. The bill next heads to the Senate floor.