By Dave Williams, GPB News
ATLANTA — A nonprofit formed to help administer a new state tax credit to support foster children aging out of the system is working against a tight deadline.
Fostering Success Act Inc. has until Dec. 31 to process $20 million in annual tax credits the General Assembly authorized last year. As of the beginning of this month, $15 million still remained available, said Heidi Carr, the organization’s executive director.
“We’ve been reaching out to a lot of companies and individuals to get their applications in,” she said. “But time is running out.”
Under legislation Georgia lawmakers passed unanimously, individual taxpayers can receive dollar-for-dollar state income tax credits for up to $2,500 per year contributed to the program, while married couples filing jointly can receive up to $5,000. Corporate donations are limited to 10% of the company’s annual tax liability.
“They have to pay taxes anyway,” Carr said. “This is an opportunity to make a difference.”
About 700 young Georgians age out of the foster care system each year, most with no family to return to after they leave the system.
Carr cited statistics showing 97% of those youths end up living in chronic poverty, 71% of the girls get pregnant within a year of leaving foster care, and 81% of the boys encounter police.
“They don’t have anywhere to go back to, so they end up on the street,” she said.
Contributions to the tax credit program will be used for “wraparound” services — including housing, food, and transportation – to help support these young people while they attend a university or technical college. Former foster care youths ages 18 to 25 are eligible for the program.
“We want them to learn a trade or get a degree,” Carr said.
Fostering Success Act Inc. currently is distributing funds raised through the tax credit to 20 nonprofit organizations, with more in the pipeline for 2024. One of those is Alpharetta-based FaithBridge Foster Care, which has helped kids aging out of foster care enroll in colleges across the state, from Dalton State College in Northwest Georgia to the College of Coastal Georgia and Valdosta State University.
“Over 50% of foster kids sign out of foster care at 18,” said John Solberg, vice president of youth opportunities at FaithBridge. “They believe they can support themselves, but they can fall into homelessness and have other issues because they’re not mentally or emotionally prepared for the challenges of adulthood.”
Applications for the tax credit to the Georgia Department of Revenue are accepted on a first-come basis. Once approved, taxpayers have 60 days from the date of approval to send their contribution check or pay online.
Carr said she’s not surprised the program is getting off to slow start because the tax credit is new and a lot of taxpayers aren’t aware of it. Thus far, about 100 youths have contacted her organization for help, she said.
“We were able to help some start school in August, and we have more lined up for January,” she said. “This gives them hope. Hope is something they don’t have a lot of.”
This story comes to Columbus News through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.