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.