New law could extend foster age from 18 to 21

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

A new law waiting to be passed in Florida would extend the age a foster child could stay in the system from 18 to 21.

The extra three years will affect hundreds of 17-year-olds, who currently could be out on the streets within months.

At 18, some foster kids are not ready and many are still in high school. They end up switching to survival mode and that starts a cycle of stealing, violence, drugs and oftentimes jail.

Keon, last name not disclosed, is a young man who said he dreams of becoming a model.

"I just want to hurry up. I cannot wait for that day," Keon said to WFTV's Jorge Estevez and Lake Eola Park Thursday.

The one thing Keon isn't looking forward to is his 18th birthday.

"I am already panicking right now, thinking what am I going to do when I turn 18," said Keon.

At 18, he would no longer qualify for foster care, which adds worry to an already delicate upbringing.

If passed, a new law could extend eligibility to 21.

"Three years is huge," said Tara Hormell from Children's Home Society in Orlando, who says the thousands of dollars spent each year per child is worth it.

"Someone who turns 18 doesn't graduate from high school, ends up on public assistance, ends up in trouble and arrested," said Hormell.

One out of three kids who leave the system at 18 ends up homeless. One out of five doesn't finish high school. On average, they earn $14,000 less than those who graduate high school. They often end up in jail costing taxpayers $93 billion.

Keon hopes the extra three years he may spend in the system will help him become a better role model for others.

"I made it through. It is going to be kind of hard, but I can handle it. I can handle anything," said Keon.

The Florida Legislature passed the bill on May 1. Gov. Rick Scott has 15 days from then to sign it into law.