During the past week a key piece of legislation has advanced at the State Capitol that will have a direct impact on children, youth and families we serve. The California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB 12–Bass and Beall) is legislation that can significantly reform California’s foster care system for emancipated foster youth and relative caregivers in two ways.
This legislation will assist youth who “age out” of foster care. Each year in California, more than 4,000 youth “age out” when they turn 18 and are no longer eligible for foster care. Currently, Hillsides Youth Moving On program offers twenty former foster youth quality, affordable transitional housing and independent living skills. Without the support of a family, these youth do not fare well as young adults and may experience homelessness, unemployment, criminal justice involvement and low educational attainment at rates greater than their peers. AB 12 will ensure a brighter future for older youth in California’s foster care system by expanding support for foster youth to age 21, an approach proven to lead to better outcomes and leverages substantial new federal funds. Aimed at teaching them independence as they journey through adulthood, YMO residents could benefit greatly from this legislation.
Another group that would benefit from AB 12 is relative caregivers. In 2001, California created the Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (Kin-GAP) to ensure that relatives who take legal guardianship of a child from the foster care system receive the same support provided to non-family members. AB 12 will build on this support by drawing on new federal dollars to operate what is currently an entirely state-funded program. Doing so will save California an estimated $70 million per year. This would be a real boom to our efforts to support the families of the children and youth we serve. Rather than look to an over burdened foster family system, these resources will help us support families to be better equipped to fulfill their responsibilities as parents and caregivers.
AB 12 moves onto the full Senate, which must vote on it before the end of August. Following this, it will proceed to Governor Schwarzenegger, who has until the end of September to sign or veto the bill. Encourage your Senators to move this legislation forward so that together, we can inform Governor Schwarzenegger of the benefits to emancipated foster youth and relative caregivers. We have an opportunity to impact the lives of so many affected by the foster care system.
Contact your Senator at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html and encourage them to pass AB12 to assist emancipated foster youth transition successfully into adulthood and support relative caregivers in their commitment to care for foster care children.