It's hard enough for older teens trying to figure out the real world of grown-up responsibilities and worries.
But many youth in Pennsylvania's foster care system are forced to make that transition without the support -- both emotional and financial -- of caring adults.
Currently, unless the children are attending school, financial support for foster families ends when they turn 18.
If they're working toward a high school diploma or going to college, the monthly stipend for living expenses can continue for three more years, until age 21.
Unless, that is, a family chooses to adopt the child or act as his or her legal guardian, in which case the financial support ends at 18.
This quirky rule actually might discourage families from providing permanent, loving homes for foster children.
According to the Juvenile Law Center and Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, former foster children who try to make this transition without the financial and emotional support of caring families are at a greater risk of being unemployed, on the street or in prison.
That's why these two organizations support Fostering Connections, an initiative included in Gov. Tom Corbett's 2012-13 budget.
The package includes two major changes. The first allows financial support to continue until age 21 if the foster child is working at least 80 hours a month or receiving job training, and the second extends adoption and guardianship subsidies until the same age.
By making the changes, Pennsylvania would be eligible for additional federal reimbursements, meaning the expanded program should not cost state taxpayers any additional money.
In fact, the governor's budget actually predicts a significant savings with the package.
"We know we can do more to help older foster youth make the challenging transition to adulthood and encourage foster families to adopt older youth," Juvenile Law Center Executive Director Robert Schwartz said in a news release. "By fully implementing Fostering Connections, we can do both all while reducing costs."
We urge the Legislature to approve this investment in Pennsylvania's future.