Bush Signing Children’s Aid Bill
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush is offering help to the children of prison inmates, proposing $25 million in seed money for programs that provide them with role models and mentors.
Bush was signing legislation Thursday that expands programs for at-risk children, including additional benefits for youths in foster care who are nearing adulthood without being adopted. He also was proposing a $130 million increase in funding for foster care, adoption and other support services as part of his fiscal 2003 budget plan.
Those funds include $25 million for programs that are devoted exclusively to the children of inmates, providing them with role models, academic help or emotional support. The money would be available to groups that are either community- or church-based, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
``The point is these are some of the most vulnerable children in our society,″ Fleischer said. ``They did nothing wrong, even if their parents did. The children should not be punished, in the president’s opinion. They need more help.″
Fleischer acknowledged that $25 million is a small amount to address a growing need, but said it is just a start on an effort that was one of Bush’s campaign pledges.
``It’s a real sign of how the president ran on something and delivered on it,″ Fleischer said. ``The community that’s involved has been very praiseworthy of this initiative. They are satisfied with the funding level.″
Bush’s fiscal 2003 budget earmarks $60 million for vouchers that teens who are ``aging out″ of foster can use for education or vocational training. The White House said individual youths would be eligible for up to $5,000 a year outside of other federal assistance they might receive.
Teen-agers would remain eligible even if they are adopted from foster care after age 16.