From here, AB 12 enters its final stage: on to Governor Schwarzenegger, who has until the end of September to either sign or veto the bill. This effort will require hard work on the part of every person who cares about children and youth in foster care.
Much has been said about the price tag for the newly built Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus, west of downtown Los Angeles, which will open next month to receive its first class of students. Surely the cost is outrageous in the current environment of fiscal constraint. We certainly can question a public funding system that is able to support such construction while laying off teachers, increasing classroom size and shortening the academic year. Here at Hillsides we are forced to “barter” with local school districts that cannot pay the approved tuition for the students we serve at Hillsides Education Center because of lack of funding.
However, in spite of our concerns, we must not lose sight of the statement that this new complex makes to the students and community it serves. For too long these are the same students that labored to learn in what some would call a most basic, if not, primitive environment. Certainly these students deserve a decent and well-equipped place in which to be educated. Certainly there is never enough that we can do to provide all children with the educational opportunity they need to be successful.
If only we were able to provide such facilities to all student…If only all teachers were well compensated…If only we took seriously the public rhetoric valuing our children as a precious resource…If only…
Back to school is just around the corner for so many children and their families. This time of year may bring some increased anxiety for vulnerable families who have financial challenges and are just barely making ends meet. At Hillsides, we are fortunate to have friends who generously remember us during this time and give in-kind donations of backpacks and school supplies for the children living on our campus. Yet, there is still so much to do for the 66 children who live with us. I would like to encourage you, the businesses and organizations you’re involved in to participate in giving back and giving students the right start to their school year. You’ll be helping the children and families we serve start on the right track to what could be a very successful academic year.
We offer school-based mental health programs at 14 different schools in the Los Angeles and Pasadena Unified School Districts, serving 108 children and their families. These clients, served by our Hillsides Family Center’s community-based programs, could absolutely use new backpacks, school supplies and assistance in getting uniforms. For families in crisis, back to school supplies may be the last thing on their mind when the need to provide the basics of food, shelter, utilities, and transportation are greater.
Will you help us lighten the burden for our vulnerable families and bring some relief this upcoming month? Monthly bus passes and grocery scrip in increments of $25 would be greatly appreciated. Visit Hillsides to learn the various ways you can help.
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.
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