Kinkade grew up in the state foster care system.
On Thursday, the Mississippi House of Representatives unanimously passed the Fostering Access and Inspiring True Hope (FAITH) Scholarship Program Act, House Bill 1313as well as an amendment on the floor to name the legislation after one of their own, State Rep. Bill Kinkade (R), who grew up in the state’s foster care system.
HB 1313 provides tuition assistance for attendance at accredited post-secondary institutions or public workforce training programs to eligible students who were in homestay between the ages of 14 and 25 or later, or who have lived in a qualified residential child care agency between these ages.
“All of our stories are special and important, and they are humbling,” Rep. Kinkade said on the floor of the house. “It’s just what you do with that story that defines who you are. And I took my story as energy and turned it into something positive.
The moment is not lost for the state legislator, who came from humble beginnings.
“Coming back from what I’ve been through, whatever it may have been, having a seat in this round room, with these great colleagues, is one of the greatest moments of my life,” Kinkade said.
In the introduction and explanation of House Bill 1313, State Representative Richard Bennett (R) spoke about the importance of the bill.
Bennett said at one point there were more foster children in Hancock County than in Atlanta, Georgia. Fortunately, however, those numbers have come down, he said.
“I probably deal with more foster care issues than anything I do as a legislator outside of this body when I’m at home,” Rep. Bennett told colleagues. “For me, this is one of the most important bills that I have dealt with or that I have sponsored since I have been here. This is something that is deeply important to me. I want foster children to know that we care.
Bennett, the House education chair, said that while there are political differences in the chamber, every lawmaker understands the importance of this issue.
“Philosophically we can disagree, we can argue, we can swear, but I can tell you – this is a body that cares. They really do, even though we come from different backgrounds,” said continued Bennett.
The number of bursaries provided for in the law would be limited to 150 new bursaries per year until the program reaches a maximum of 900 bursaries. The legislation would also require accredited post-secondary institutions to provide summer and vacation accommodation and board to scholarship recipients.
If enacted, the law will come into effect after July 1, 2022.