COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — South Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish an extended foster care program for young adults.

The legislation would change state law and allow South Carolina to draw down federal funds to help cover the costs. Currently, South Carolina is one of two states that do not do this.

Adults under the age of 21 who are, or were, in the legal custody of the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) on their 18th birthday, would be eligible for the extended foster care program.

There is a voluntary placement program in South Carolina now for foster youth who age out. State dollars cover the costs of the program. According to DSS, there are 177 youth in that program.

Officials said an extension of foster care would help these youth establish a support system as they head into adulthood.

DSS Director of Communications and External Affairs Connelly-Anne Ragley said, “We know youth who age out of foster care have higher rates of incarceration, they sometimes experience unplanned pregnancies at higher rates than other teens, they could have difficulty finding a job or training or even continuing their education.”

The nonprofit organization Fostering Great Ideas says they support the extension. The organization supports hundreds of youth in foster care in South Carolina every year.

Director of Advocacy Tori Shuler said the extension of foster care in South Carolina would ensure foster youth leave care when they are ready, and have the support they need to become prepared for life after foster care. Shuler said this change would support young people who are experiencing foster care to complete high school, explore post secondary options, and enter the workforce.

“We’re just gonna have better outcomes and when we have better outcomes its better for everyone in the state. That means people are able to be self sufficient and they can roll off support, which is the plan – to roll off when you’re ready,” Shuler said.