Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: May 22, 2009
Sen. Harry Coates
Taskforce to Help At-Risk Youth Receives Final Approval in Senate
The Senate gave final approval to legislation Friday
to help reach out to the thousands of at-risk youth in the state
and help them become productive citizens. Senate Concurrent Resolution
32, by Sen. Harry
Coates, creates the Task Force on Youth Transitioning into
Adulthood to look at why so many of Oklahoma's children are falling
through the cracks.
"Oklahoma does a great job of helping at-risk
youth under the age of 18 through various programs including educational,
drug treatment, mental health, rehabilitation and medical services,"
said Coates, R-Seminole. "The problem is that these services
stop when they turn 18, and a majority of them aren't able to
make that important transition to independent living. Therefore,
all the millions we spent on them as children are wasted because
they continue to be wards of the state since they don't know how
to support themselves."
The senator explained that depending on the level
of care, the financial investment by the state can range from
$8,260 for a young person in foster care for one year to over
$108,000 for one in juvenile institutional care. He fears that
without help with the transition into adulthood, the state’s
money will be wasted.
"These children have no positive influences
in their lives to teach them about right and wrong, how to work
hard to achieve their goals in life, or just the basics of how
to be an independent, productive citizen,” said Coates.
“It’s a problem that costs the taxpayers millions
every year in public assistance simply because they’ve never
been taught what they’re supposed to do as adults, and that’s
why it’s imperative that this task force find a solution
to this growing problem.”
The task force will study those youth who are currently
in or are preparing to exit the juvenile justice or foster care
system or who experience conditions in their daily lives that
place their healthy, safety, physical and mental health at risk.
They will look at policies and programs to assist these youth
through education, behavioral health, social services, housing,
and employment services.
According to the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy
(OICA), which requested the legislation, Oklahoma has a tremendous
problem with at-risk youth transitioning into adulthood as do
other states. OICA has found that:
- There are over 60,000 young Oklahomans, ages
18-24, who have only a high school degree and who are neither
in school or the military, and are unemployed.
- Fewer than 43 percent of youth exiting the juvenile
justice system return to school after their release, and another
16 percent drop out within five months.
- The Oklahoma City Mayor’s Homelessness
Action Task Force reported there are at least 1,500homeless children
in Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The OICA also conducted a study of youth aging out
of foster care in the Midwest and found that:
- Fewer than one-third were enrolled in an education or training
program, and only 11 percent were
enrolled in college.
- Fewer than half were employed, and for those were,
employment was sporadic, rarely providing financial security.
- Less than half received independent living services
and only 50 percent received education services.
- Twenty-five percent didn’t have enough to
eat and one in seven has been homeless.
- Nearly half of the females were pregnant by age
19 and were more than twice as likely to have at least one child.
- Thirty-three percent had been arrested in the
last year and 23.7 percent spent at least one night in a correctional
For more information contact:
Sen. Coates - (405) 521-5547