Blue Pencil Chaos

Last week was one of great highs and lows. At the beginning of the week I was invited along with many other child welfare executives to join Governor Schwarzenegger for the signing of Assembly Bill 12. Many of you who read last week’s blog entry will recognize the legislation as an important advancement of services provided to youth leaving the foster care system. The bill signing was the culmination of two years of hard work to craft the legislation and lobby for the support necessary to get it to the Governor’s desk.

The legislation, an important statement to foster care youth who have reached 18, enables us to continue providing services to former foster youth that are required for them to be successful. Having been part of this effort, it was truly gratifying to witness the signing. Youth served at both Youth Moving On and our Transition Aged Youth services throughout Los Angeles County will benefit from the legislation.

By the end of the week, a budget was presented to the Governor for his signature. Although the budget that was passed by the legislature provided no increased capacity to serve California’s most vulnerable, the budget was designed to maintain the State’s current level of commitment to social services and education. It is the Governor’s prerogatives to “blue pencil” or eliminate line items before finalizing the budget. As he has done in the past, he utilized the blue pencil to create further savings for the State’s “rainy day fund” and, in doing so, created a “rainy day” for us and other child welfare agencies.

In particular, the Governor significantly reduced funding for special education, suspended the mandate to provide some of these services, and moved the responsibility for funding these programs from the mental health to the education department. The “blue pencil” eliminations have created a tremendous chaotic environment in which to support these children and families, jeopardizing their care and placing them at considerable risk.

As you can imagine, we have been busy sorting out the impact this will have on 28 of 64 residents at Hillsides that are directly affected by these actions. We are, of course, committed to seeing them and their families through this very uncertain time and will do everything we can, within our own limited resources, to continue to provide them with the care they need.

Once again, the budget is “balanced” on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable. Once again, rhetoric is hollow as we continue to fail to allocate resources necessary to educate and safeguard our most vulnerable children and youth. Once again, the “system” further victimizes those who have been the most innocent of victims.

Over the next few weeks strategies will emerge to address this issue. We call upon our legislators to take up this issue as soon as possible and we call upon our donor community more than ever to support our efforts during this time. Together we will continue to be a resource for these children, youth and families helping them to create and find safe “places” were they can enjoy a full life.

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