WASHINGTON – Cashing in on a campaign promise, President Bush said Thursday he will include $25 million in his 2003 budget for programs designed to help children of prison inmates.
The money would go to provide role models, mentors, academic aid and emotional support.
"Families provide us with comfort and encouragement, compassion and hope, mutual support and unconditional love. No family is perfect, but every family is important," Bush said, standing with first lady Laura Bush and two families with adopted children.
"These children don't see their parents every day but like all children, need help with homework, someone to play catch with, someone to hug them," Bush said. "Countless adults are willing to open their hearts to these children, and we should do all we can to support their compassion."
The money will be part of the president's $505 million fiscal 2003 budget plan for foster care, adoption and other support programs for children. That's $130 million more than last year's budget request.
Of that, $60 million would go for vouchers for educational and vocational training for teenage foster children. 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.
"It's a real sign of how the president ran on something and delivered on it. The community that's involved has been very praiseworthy of this initiative. They are satisfied with the funding level," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
The money, available to groups that are either community or church-based, is part of the president's campaign pledge to improve adoption and foster care services.
Bush made the proposal Thursday as he signed legislation that expands programs for at-risk children, such as those that encourage adoption, try to reunite broken families or provide additional benefits for youths in foster care who are nearing adulthood without being adopted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.