Governor signs bill to help foster youth

Big news today for foster youth: Gov. Schwarzenegger announced he has signed AB 12, a bill to extend services to those in foster care until age 21, California Wire reports.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 California teens “age out” of foster care each year when they turn 18 or 19; now, the state will be able to provide them with some form of support system — largely, by tapping into additional federal funds — for another three years, according to a fact sheet from the office of Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. (D-San Jose), who sponsored the bill with Assemblymember Karen Bass:

In October 2008 Congress enacted HR 6893: the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. Consequently, states now have the option to establish relative guardianship programs with federal financial participation in the costs. HR 6893 also allows states to receive federal funds to provide foster care, kinship-guardianship and adoption assistance benefits to support youth who meet certain conditions (e.g. employment and education-related requirements) until age 21. HR 6893 provides an incredible opportunity for California to access federal funding to better the lives of our most vulnerable youth.

AB 12 would ensure that California opts into both of these essential federal funding opportunities. It would: (1) re-enact our existing Kin-GAP program to align with federal requirements and (2) provide transitional support to some youth until age 21. These changes represent fiscally and socially responsible improvements to California’s foster care system. As a result, California would use federal funds for costs that are currently borne by the state and counties, and would achieve substantial savings from declines in homelessness, teen pregnancy, unemployment, public assistance, and other expensive outcomes for young adults who would otherwise be forced out of foster care at the age of 18.

It feels almost strange to be writing about news of an extended support system for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. It’s so hopeful. Usually I find myself writing about the unraveling of the social safety net. Well, there’s always tomorrow.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue


    My husband became a ward of the state (not CA) when he was 10. He completed his GED and was granted emancipated minor status when he was 17 – he was a pretty bright kid. His last foster mother ran a residential treatment center for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents, and hired him as a house parent/tutor/employment trainer after he was legally out of her care (she did that with a lot of her aged-out kids if they were capable of handling their younger peers before they aged out). He eventually rose to the position of president of the board of directors.

    Between leaving her care and becoming her employee, he got a job on his own, work on a loading dock – it was what he could get – but was fired in less than a week. He becamed homeless, sleeping in a car that his older sister had helped him buy.

    If he hadn’t had the chance to go work for his foster mother, he probably would have been dead before he was 30 – a lot of people who knew him in juvenile detention or in foster care had predicted it. They were very surprised when they got our wedding announcement a few months after his 30th birthday. He’s 53 now.