In The People's Blog

I was honored to be invited to speak to a room of Children’s League advocates focused on the needs of transition-age youth.

I spoke to the youth to let them know that their advocacy is powerful and I delivered a somewhat shortened version of these remarks on Thursday, March 14.


The issue of young people who “age out” of the foster care system is a critical part of the child welfare policy agenda.

According to DCF, in Massachusetts, approximately 600-900 young people “age out” of the foster care system each year.

Too often these young people end up housing insecure, with criminal justice involvement, unemployed, and struggling alone with mental health challenges.

There’s no magic wand. No one bill we can pass and say we fixed the problem. We need a system overhaul that works for these young people. 

I want to let you know some things I’m working on.


First, I am working with Rep. Farley Bouvier on An Act protecting benefits owed to foster children.

The bill addresses what is a major scandal that has not received enough attention.

As has been a longstanding practice, Massachusetts intercepts monthly Social Security payments and veterans benefits paid to foster children whose parents have died or have become disabled, taking the funds and depositing most of them in the state’s General Fund.

Our bill reverses this policy and directs state officials to preserve these funds for the child to use as they transition to adulthood and independent living. 

Rep. Farley Bouvier and I have good news to report on this issue. DCF is moving towards ending the diversion of funds, and is looking for ways to establish accounts for each child getting benefits, so the funds will be available as the child exits the foster care system.

The details are still being worked on, but the Governor includes funding in the budget for this purpose. This confiscation of benefits has gone on way too long, but we’re on the road to fixing this one.


Second, I want to mention my bill establishing a bill of rights for children in foster care

Last session I was proud to be the lead Senate sponsor, along with Rep. Farley Bouvier, of legislation establishing a Foster Parent Bill of Rights. The law passed on the very last day of the session, and was signed into law in January 2023.

This session, I filed its companion, a statement of fundamental rights for foster children.

The bill puts front and center the importance of having appropriate placements that provide for the child’s needs, that support their linguistic and cultural identity, accommodate their disability and that are gender-affirming. 

The bill would place into law the importance of preserving connections with their families, maintaining educational stability and to be notified and assisted in providing input into decisions that involve them.

Critically, the bill of rights also requires the Department to provide transition age youth the resources and support they need to prepare for their future.

My House partner in this effort is Representative Michael Finn, and we are looking to repeat the success we had last session.


Finally, I want to put a spotlight on Friends of Children out my way in Northampton. 

The organization does amazing, life-changing work in many areas, but I want to call them out here for their work on FOCUS, their volunteer-led mentoring program for transition-age youth. 

FOCUS is a community-based mentorship program that connects transition-aged youth to resources, peers, and community members with the goal of success and independence. 

Friends of Children leadership and participants have long — and rightly — held me accountable to do better for the children in the care of our state. And I continue to be propelled by their advocacy.

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