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Who are the Next Victims of Despicable Disregard?

02/15/2012 09:12 am ET | Updated Apr 16, 2012

How is it that so many of us understand the level of financial support most grown children require to gain a foothold on the economic ladder these days -- yet states like Florida find new ways to deprive those who don't even have parents to provide such support?

A recent Harris Poll found that 59 percent of American parents financially support their adult children up to 39 years of age. The survey excluded youth who are still in some form of schooling, or the percentage would have been higher still!

Half of parents surveyed said they provide housing; 48 percent help with living expenses; 35 percent buy insurance for their children; 28 percent pay medical bills, and 29 percent dole out spending money.

According to the Miami Herald's Fred Grimm:

The parents do this for the obvious reason. The boomerangs, despite all the advantages of family and education, have found themselves foundering in an economy that has been particularly gruesome for the young. Unemployed and underemployed boomerangs have become one of the recurring themes of this long, slow recovery. We've extended the age of dependency.

Whether this extension is inherently good or bad, the fact is many young adults are floundering. A college degree is often not sufficient to help them find a good job. Having three children in this age group myself, I know the challenge of trying to help them find a way forward in a desperate economy. And as Director of Foster Education for First Star, I know how much harder it is for foster youth.

Yet the budget bill passed in the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday lowers the age at which the state's foster youth are left unsupported, whether they are still in school or not. Support for former foster children would end at 21 if the Florida house gets its way, down from 23 for those who are studying in school and staying out of trouble. As things stand, foster youth are 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers and fewer than 6 percent obtain a Bachelor's degree.

And yet, according to House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, taking support away from foster youth comes from Republicans "leading by their principles."

More realistically, it's just another backhanded way of slipping one to the defenseless, taking from those who need help instead of requiring extraordinarily wealthy people and corporations to pay their fair share.

If you don't keep your eyes open these days, you could miss seeing one program after another intended to help the less fortunate bite the dust.

These maneuvers are examples of the mean streak I wrote about not long ago. They find a foundation in the works of people like Charles Murray who despises what he calls "ecumenical niceness" and argues that too many people are going to college who shouldn't be there. It's a clever, provocative way to sell books. But what we're really seeing is prejudicial meanness.

I'm writing this blog on behalf of young people who've had enough disappointment and who are about to be dropped on their heads by a bunch of bureaucrats looking for a way to steal from those in need to protect those who need nothing. Aren't you tired of it? Shouldn't we tell the Florida Senate -- where this bill could be put to rest -- that the nation's eyes are upon them? Shouldn't we tell them where they might find more than a few dollars other than in the pockets of former foster kids? We should.

If we don't stay vigilant, as people were when the highly regarded Susan G. Komen Foundation that made so many good decisions meandered down the wrong path with the help of a few self-serving people at the helm, then children, young adults and people in need will be pushed to the side. One brick at a time is all it takes to dismantle democracy, to become indifferent and to let selfish people destroy the hopes and chances of people they consider undeserving of their support.

Whose health and well-being will be sacrificed next? On whose head will the next brick be dropped? Surely, not on the heads of those who can afford to take the hit.

Kathleen is Distinguished Fellow and Director of Foster Youth Education at First Star and created their university foster academy campus concept.
She also blogs at Comebacks at Work.

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