Today is a wonderful day at Hillsides, in particular for all the staff at Hillsides Education Center, who dedicate year after year to working with our students in providing them a quality education. Today is a day to acknowledge our students for the great work that they’ve done and one of the greatest accomplishments they have achieved—graduating from high school.
We had the opportunity to listen to six graduates share their stories and give thanks to those individuals that brought comfort, attention, and education. While some students might have been with us for one year or fifteen years, each graduate has become a young man or woman. They have matured to become heartfelt individuals with diverse talents and abilities. Though they have encountered many challenges, they have also achieved great things they can be proud of: the ability to express themselves, be a role model to younger students, bring laughter to someone’s life, and simply find their voice.
We couldn’t be prouder of them and are excited about their future. Hillsides will continue to care and be a supportive community for them and we are confident of their future success. A hearty congratulations goes out to the students and another one to the staff, parents, and community for dedicating their time, attention, and resources in meeting academic needs and providing enrichment opportunities for our students throughout the year.
Foster care children who establish long-term attachments to relatives or individuals fare much better than those who do not have permanent connections with someone in their lives. In 2008, the federal government enacted the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Public Law 110-351), a new law that gives states the ability to establish relative guardianship programs with federal financial participation in the costs. PL 110-351 also makes federal funds available for foster care, kinship-guardianship, and adoption assistance benefits to youth who meet certain conditions (e.g., employment and education related requirements) until age 21. PL 110-351 provides California with an unprecedented opportunity to access federal funding to improve the lives of our state’s most vulnerable youth.
I am hopeful in reporting that AB 12 (Beall and Bass), a bill co-sponsored by the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, our state association, has passed out of its first Senate policy committee, Senate Human Services, on a 3-0 vote and now moves on to the Judiciary Committee. Senators Liu (D-Glendale), Yee (D-San Francisco) and Runner (R-Antelope Valley) voted for the bill; two committee members were absent.
This Assembly Bill would allow California to receive matching funds for children placed with relatives in KinGAP and would permit California to take advantage of recently enacted federal support for youth who wish to remain in foster care to age 21. Through the federal Fostering Connections to Success Act, which provides matching federal funds to states that place children in guardianship and extends federal support for foster care to age 21, AB 12 provides the vehicle to take advantage of both changes in federal law. The legislation would ensure that California opts into these essential federal funding opportunities. AB 12 would: 1) re-enact our existing Kin-GAP program to align it with new federal requirements and 2) provide transitional support to qualifying foster youth until age 21. This would benefit many of the children and youth we serve and may provide new opportunities to Hillsides to support parents and relative caregivers to address the challenges that their children confront.
These measures would assist California to utilize federal funds to meet costs currently borne by the state and counties, and would realize proven savings from declines in unemployment, homelessness, teen pregnancy, public assistance, and the other costly outcomes for young adults who “age out” of foster care. The benefit to transitional age youth means a successful transition into adulthood.
For those interested in following these efforts and receive more information contact the John Burton Foundation at www.johnburtonfoundation.org.
According to the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, after being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 22nd, AB 12 moves to the Appropriations Committee, then on to the Senate floor for final approval. Once out of the Senate, the bill moves back to the Assembly for concurrence on amendments taken in the Senate. It must be sent to the Governor for signature by August 31st and signed by September 30th. If signed, the law would take effect on January 1, 2012.
During Foster Care Awareness Month in May, we held our Second Annual Hillsides Foster Soles Kickoff Party to launch our online auction of celebrity autographed shoes. More than 150 celebrities participated by donating their shoes, which drew a crowd of 200 at our sold-out event at Bar Celona in Pasadena. The auction, powered by www.clothesoffourback.org, was held from May 4 through 20 and raised more than $27,000 to help us provide the extras for the vulnerable children that we serve in our residential treatment program.