Dear Editor:

The month of May is recognized as National Foster Care Month. According to the government child welfare services website, “May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize that we each can play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care. Find resources and information to help ensure that their future is bright”.  With one of the largest population of children and youth who are in the foster care system, California’s foster care system is made of 63,000 children and youth who have been removed from their homes because of maltreatment or neglect. California is also one of the few states which offers services to youth after the youth emancipate from the system. While significant progress has been made to reunite children with their families, youth are still emancipating from the foster care system and are having difficulties maintaining a lifestyle similar to their peers.

In 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the California Fostering Connections to Success Act which is often referred to as Assembly Bill 12 (AB 12). AB 12 is a bill that will allow youth in the foster care system to have extended care and be provided with financial support. Other services include: social service resources such as a social worker, transitional living resources and educational resources which are placed in an effort to decrease homelessness and unemployment after a youth emancipates from the foster care system. Currently, our prison system has over 70% of its inmates who report being in the foster care system at one point in their life. Many youth who emancipate from the system are emancipating without a permanent placement and this often contributes to over 51% of the youth being unemployed. In regards to females, they are four times more likely to receive public assistance than the general public and are at a greater risk of being a single mother. In general, youth who emancipate from the system are at greater risk than other vulnerable populations.

AB 12 provides youth with necessary resources and support needed for the youth to reach their greatest potential. Youth who choose to extend their stay in foster care are able to do so until the age of 21. Once the youth reaches age 21, the goal is to have supplied the youth with enough resources, guidance and support needed in order to reduce the likelihood of them becoming homeless, unemployed or not having an education that will allow them to progress in the current economy. The bill financially supports the youth in the amount of $800 on a monthly basis.

The youth are expected to abide by certain obligations in order to remain in good standing with the program. First, they must have an approved placement. The placement is approved by the social worker who is assigned to work in collaboration with the youth. Secondly, the youth needs to be willing to work at least 80 hours a month or be enrolled in college or a vocational program. Lastly, each youth is encouraged to participate in a transitional living program which will assist the youth with learning the basic necessities.

Since AB 12 has been in effect, more youth are enrolling in college, obtaining skills that are progressing them into careers. More youth also express feeling more comfortable emancipating at a later age after receiving the same guidance as their peers would receive from their parent.

As of today, AB 12 is in the process of being extended to age 25 to youth who are enrolled in college and are successfully completing their higher education. In January of 2014, Foster Youth Investment (F.Y.I) met with Senator Jim Beall (formally Assessmblymember Beall), who is the original author of AB 12, to address the extension of the bill; FYI hopes to assist the public becoming more aware of the issues youth in the foster care system encounter and to increase the support with the extension of the bill.