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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 10:10 pm | Fair 49º


Jim Roberts: Landmark Legislation Benefits Foster Youths

California bill would provide resources and assistance as the children transition into adulthood

In these tumultuous economic and political times, marked by great social angst, financial deficits, extreme partisanship and little to say “hurrah” about, a wisp of refreshing news flowed from the halls of the California Legislature last week when Assembly Bill 12 passed and was sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature.

Typical of most legislation, the public is probably clueless about this bill, but it’s one we can all be proud of. AB 12 will provide resources and assistance to foster youths who have no permanent family to help them transition to independence — while not adding any additional cost to Californians. This is a hurrah!

By way of history, about 5,000 foster youths age out of the foster care system each year in California. Unfortunately, it is well documented that these youths have a horrible experience transitioning into adulthood. Seriously, how many of you at age 18 were ready to fully embrace adulthood without any family, support or a safety net?

Needless to say, it’s no surprise that foster youths have much lower educational achievement and are highly likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, unplanned pregnancies and involvement with the legal system, and continue to consume public resources. AB 12 will help dramatically improve these outcomes.

In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Federal Public Law 110-351), which provided California the opportunity to access federal funding to serve foster youths up to age 21. AB 12 is California’s implementation of the federal legislation that is “cost neutral” to the state, allowing the expansion of services to foster youths ages 18 to 21, offset by increased federal support.

And there is even more good news! National research conducted last year by two major universities substantiated that every dollar expended on former foster youths ages 18 to 21 will produce a $2.41 return to the public coffers. Instead of being public resource consumers, these former foster youth become public resource contributors.

The passage of AB 12 was no small feat. This legislation took more than two years and required several last-minute amendments to appease the Department of Finance. Sam Blakeslee, in his new role as state senator, courageously broke ranks with his caucus and voted for AB 12. The bill passed in the Senate 26-8 and in the Assembly 73-2; demonstrating the bill’s excellent bipartisan support. But there is still work to be done to make AB 12 public law.

We began this year faced with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s draconian proposal to dismantle services to former foster youths. Fortunately, there was an extraordinary chorus of opposition, which effectively silenced that idea. Now, the governor has the opportunity to make historical improvements in the lives of California’s foster youths by signing this landmark legislation. In deference to Gov. Schwarzenegger, he has been a supporter of important foster care legislation and has routinely verbalized his concern for foster youths throughout his tenure in office. Supporting AB 12 is yet another opportunity for him to turn words into action.

California’s foster youths desire the opportunity to make a successful entry into adulthood just as much as any other young adults. Let’s help them! Please take the time to ask Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign AB 12. Contact him via mail at State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814; via telephone at 916.445.2841; via fax at 916.558.3160 or via e-mail by clicking here to access the link on his Web site.

— Jim Roberts is executive director of the Family Care Network Inc.

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