Time to help foster youth in California

September 29, 2010


In these tumultuous economic and political times, marked by great social angst, financial deficits, extreme partisanship and little to say “hurrah” about; a wisp of refreshing news flowed from the halls of our state legislature this week. Assembly Bill 12 (AB 12) was passed and sent to the Governor for his signature. Typical of most legislation, the public is probably clueless about this bill – but this is one we can all be proud of. AB 12 will provide resources and assistance to foster youth who have no permanent family to help them transition to independence while not adding any additional cost to Californians. This is a hurrah!

By way of history, about 5,000 foster youth age out of the foster care system each year in California. Unfortunately, it is well documented that these youth have a horrible experience transitioning into adulthood. Seriously, how many of you at age 18 were ready to fully embrace adulthood without any family, support or a safety net? Needless to say, it is no surprise that foster youth have much lower educational achievement and are highly likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, unplanned pregnancies, involvement with the legal system, and continue to consume public resources. AB 12 will help dramatically improve these outcomes.

In 2008, the US Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Federal Public Law 110-351) which provided California the opportunity to access federal funding to serve foster youth up to age 21. AB 12 is California’s implementation of this federal legislation which is Acost neutral@ to the state, allowing the expansion of services to foster youth ages 18-21, offset by increased federal support. And there is even more good news! National research conducted last year by two major universities, substantiated that every dollar expended on former foster youth ages 18-21 will produce a $2.41 return to the public coffers. Instead of being public resource consumers, these former foster youth become public resource contributors!

The passage of AB 12 was no small feat. This legislation took over two years and required several last-minute amendments to appease the Department of Finance. Sam Blakeslee, in his new role as State Senator, courageously broke ranks with his caucus and voted for AB 12.  The bill passed in the Senate 26-8, and in the Assembly 73-2; demonstrating the bill’s excellent bipartisan support. But, there is still work to be done in order to make AB 12 public Law.

We began this year faced with the Governor’s draconian proposal to dismantle services to former foster youth. Fortunately, there was an extraordinary chorus of opposition which effectively silenced that idea. Now, the Governor has the opportunity to make historical improvements in the lives of California’s foster youth by signing this landmark legislation. In deference to Governor Schwarzenegger, he has been a supporter of important foster care legislation and has routinely verbalized his concern for foster youth throughout his tenure in office.  Supporting AB 12 is yet another opportunity for him to turn words into action.

California’s foster youth desire the opportunity to make a successful entry into adulthood just as much as any other young adults. Let’s help them! Please take the time to ask Governor Schwarzenegger to sign AB 12. You can contact Governor Schwarzenegger via mail at: State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814; via telephone at: (916) 445 2841; via FAX at: (916) 558-3160; or via email using the link on his website.

Jim Roberts is the founder and executive director of the Family Care Network in San Luis Obispo.

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These are some interesting comments. I would be interested if danika would elucidate because I have never known any foster families or foster children apart from my neighbor who took in their niece. It is my impression that many foster families are caring for relatives and we are paying them to do that.

I do realize that there are children cared for by non relatives and some families take in these kids strictly for the money and free maid services. Those kids are at risk but does 3 years of coddling change anything after they are adults?

Are we supposed to pay for a college education for these kids also? Exactly what kind of support does this bill AB 12 propose? I would like more details because many parents can’t afford to send their own children off to college or fully support them outside of the home. danika and SSC are correct, everything cost us.

Ah Ah Hah hah Oh No, Oh geeez, Good One. Shaking my head, laughing but not funny but funny but not funny.

We looked into the foster parent program as we have no children at home. We had a strong desire to help and create good, home, family environments for some of these children. What we found was that we had to turn our home into a prison; putting locks on all household chemical cabinets, medicine cabinets, fencing off our pond be open to anytime, spur of the moment “checks” from social services, the list goes on and on.

There is no way with these kind of rules and requirements that any child can be allowed to grow up feeling normal or like they are in a safe family type situation. It is very sad, we have the home, the ability and the love to foster children, but we enjoy having a home. Teaching children and nurturing children should be what it’s all about.

Huh? Are you talking about having to put locks on everyday cleaning supplies like laundry detergent, dish soap, bleach, toilet cleaner, etc? Did they require that all medicine be locked up like cough syrup or just prescription medication?

There have been nightmares that occurred in foster homes and it is a difficult balance, I guess.

Seems to me that proper screening is the key but I can understand that CPS is in a precarious situation considering that they often remove children by force and place them away from their families. The entire system is a mess and it is my impression that CPS is often the enemy and not the cure. In fact they seem to do as much or maybe more harm than good.

Yes, everyday cleaning supplies, bathroom products, including the medicine cabinets, knives, etc. We have a horse trough made into a fish pond and were told it would have to be fenced in even. It was mind boggling. Makes you really wonder about the screening of foster parents. If you can’t trust potential surrogate parents to supervise and monitor activites why would you even let them be foster parents.

This type of environment seems as abusive to a child as anything else. Why not just yell at them, you are to stupid to have common sense, we can’t trust you to take our eyes off you.

Californians also pay federal tax which supports this program which is a misleading play on words. The statement about a return of $2.41 to public cofers for every one dollar spent must be substantiated to be believable. If we spent $1000 per month on one of these young adults, they would pay $2410 in taxes? I don’t think so. The existing foster care system should be mentoring the children through life skills training so they are prepared to enter the real world upon reaching adulthood, just like everyone else. By the way, what is your salary for directing the family Care Network and how much will that grow with an increased program by adding four years supervision to each foster child?

Having been closely involved with a fostering family, my eyes have been opened to the whole foster experience. It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There is no such thing as “adding no additional cost to Californians”. We pay for everything, whether we know it or not. Everything.