The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the Senate Bill 701. The Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
Senate Bill 701 expands eligibility for the tuition waiver for foster care recipients to those who resided in an out-of-home placement at the time the individual graduated from high school or successfully completed a general equivalency development examination (GED), rather than limiting such eligibility to the youth having reached the age of eighteen.
An unaccompanied homeless youth is one who is not in a parent or guardian’s physical custody or who lacks a fixed, adequate and regular nighttime residence. As the Church values the dignity of human life above all else, we must do all we can to remedy homelessness through promoting “education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 192). It is thus imperative that our state provide unaccompanied homeless youth the opportunity to obtain a college degree, thus affording them the ability to obtain gainful employment and provide for themselves a place to call “home”.
Pope Francis has stated, “I call on everyone: individuals, organs of society, authorities, to do everything possible to assure that every family has a place to live.” (Papal Audience, St. Peter’s Square, 12/22/13) Homeless youth and foster care recipients are left hopeless upon reaching the age of majority. The State’s provision of tuition waivers is a primary way for these children to have hope for a better future. Therefore, we urge this Committee to report favorably on Senate Bill 701.