Tennessee lawmakers passed landmark legislation yesterday that will continue a program that has helped many foster children transition into adulthood. Representative Mark White (R-Memphis) introduced the bill that will continue the Transitioning Youth Act—a program that provides assistance to foster children between the ages of 18-21 once they age out of the foster care system. The critical legislation helps individuals bridge the gap from their teenage years to adulthood, and passed on the House floor with overwhelming support and a vote of 97- 1.
“Carrying this legislation for Tennessee’s foster children, a particularly vulnerable population, was an honor,” said Representative White. “I appreciate the widespread support of my colleagues in recognizing this very important initiative, and I thank Jimmy Wayne for his incredible passion in seeing this through to the end.”
The program, and this legislation, has long been a priority of country star Jimmy Wayne, who was a foster child and found himself homeless at the age of 16. To raise awareness about teenage foster children, Wayne founded Project Meet Me Halfway and walked from Nashville to Phoenix in 2010. Mr. Wayne has consistently worked with State legislators and members of Tennessee State government to advocate on behalf of foster youth. Wayne was on-hand to witness passage of the bill, and sang the National Anthem to open the legislative session.
“I am grateful to Tennessee lawmakers for standing up for foster children across the state and recognizing the critical need for this program,” said Wayne. “I was fortunate to have two people who were absolutely integral in seeing that I transitioned into adulthood, but not all foster children have that experience. The continuation of the Transitioning Youth Act will ensure they do.”
“We need to continue the good work of this program and ensure we are giving the opportunity of hope for foster youth,” said Speaker Harwell. “Jimmy Wayne is a great leader and gifted spokesman for this issue because he knows the difference it can make. As lawmakers, we are here to change lives in a positive way. This was a chance for us to do what is right, and I am pleased to see passage of this bill.”
Mr. Wayne uses http://projectmmh.org as an online resource to distribute information about Project Meet Me Halfway. The site allows viewers to study the issue of foster youth who “age out” of the foster care system and face serious life problems such as homelessness and poverty.