UPDATE: KQED's Michael Krasny interviewed Karen Bass, Sam Cobbs (First Place for Youth), Amy Lemley (John Burton Foundation) and former foster youth about this legislation.
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Fostering Connections Legislation at the Federal Level
Last week Sunny Hills co-hosted a luncheon for Christine James-Brown, CEO of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). The Hon. Peter Breen – Mayor of San Anselmo and a CWLA fellow and longtime child welfare advocate – joined us to welcome Chris, and representatives from fifteen regional nonprofits came to learn more about how they can support the federal Fostering Connections legislation that was passed last October. Fostering Connections is the most significant piece of child welfare legislation to be passed in last twenty years: it provides an opportunity to reorganize how funds are made available to assist families. It creates different categories for funding and so provides greater flexibility, and it also provides federal money that states can access should they chose to for child welfare.
At the end of February, Joe Costa participated in CWLA’s Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. CWLA Board Members, including Joe, spoke with representatives from Nancy Pelosi’s office and the offices of Senators Boxer and Feinstein, urging them to help the administration hold a Conference on Youth in 2010: if held, it would be the first such conference since 1970. The CWLA advocates also talked with Congress people about the federal Fostering Connections legislation and the economic stimulus package. This advocacy work on behalf of children makes a big difference: in the past, members of Congress have co-sponsored crucial legislation as a result of our visits. After CWLA's 2007 conference, Congress introduced legislation that addressed youth aging out of the foster care system. In 2004, the CWLA helped congress with the introduction of monumental kinship legislation.
California’s AB 12
The San Francisco Chronicle published an excellent editorial on California’s response to this federal legislation last week. In addition to recognizing the “moral obligation to do more for the thousands of foster youth who ‘age out’ of the system every year,” the editorial also clearly explains the strong financial incentives for the state to continue supporting these young adults through the age of 21. The Chronicle supports California State Assembly Bill AB 12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act; as a child welfare agency, we are also urging support of this effort to help foster children and their caregivers.
Reasons To Support AB 12
If passed, the California State Assembly Bill 12 (AB 12), the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, will significantly reform California’s foster care system in two ways: 1. Assisting youth who ‘age out’ of foster care, and 2. Supporting relative caregivers. At Sunny Hills Services, we know first hand how important both of these reforms would be to the foster care system.
Through our range of programs in our BAYC division we have witnessed the huge impact we can have on youth who “age out” of the system when they turn 18 and are no longer eligible for foster care. There are over 4,000 of these children aging out each year in California alone; without the support of a family, these youth do not fare well as typical young adults. They are far more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, criminal justice involvement and low educational attainment – AB 12 helps by expanding support for foster youth to age 21.
Sunny Hills Services also offers programs to support kinship caregivers through our Sonoma Kinship Family Center in Santa Rosa. Relatives who take legal guardianship of children who would otherwise be in foster care receive critical support through our center, similar to the types of support that are provided to foster parents but including additional services such as respite care, guardianship clinics, and other support programs designed specifically for kinship caregivers. If passed, AB 12 will help programs like the Sonoma Kinship Family Center continue to operate while allowing them to utilize federal dollars that they have not had access to before.