WASHINGTON — United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., introduced the Foster Care Mentoring Act of 2011 this week, which aims to connect foster youth with caring and supportive mentors. Joining Sen. Landrieu in sponsoring this bill are Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Tim Johnson, D-S.D.
"Mentoring relationships can play an enormous role in helping foster youth reach their academic and personal potential," Sen. Landrieu said. "These youth, who have been moved from school to school and from home to home, lack stability and permanency and can learn to thrive when someone gives the energy and time to show that they care. It is our responsibility to ensure that these youth have the opportunity to build lasting relationships with adult role models. Whether these relationships are developed through natural interactions or through a mentoring program, they are rooted in trust and respect and have the potential to last a lifetime."
Research shows that children who are mentored are 45 percent less likely to use illicit drugs; 59 percent more likely to succeed in school; and 73 percent more likely to attain higher life achievement goals. Specifically, the Foster Care Mentoring Act of 2011 aims to improve the outcome of children in foster care through establishing long term relationships with responsible, caring adults by:
- Authorizing $15 million to establish statewide foster care mentoring programs. States would be eligible to receive up to $600,000 to establish or expand a foster care mentoring program. These programs would be specially designed to serve the needs of foster youth and would have a strong emphasis on improving academic achievement.
- Providing $4 million to begin a national public awareness campaign and mentor recruitment program. The bill authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a nationwide campaign to raise public awareness of the need for foster care mentors and opportunities to get involved.
- Allowing up to $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness for those who volunteer to mentor a child in care. Mentors who participate in a foster care mentor program would be eligible to receive up to $2,000 in federal student loan forgiveness for every 200 hours they serve. A total of $10,000 in student loans incurred by participating college or graduate students would qualify for forgiveness.