Historic Foster Care Bill Gets Legislature’s Approval
Assembly Bill 12, landmark legislation to extend foster care benefits to age 21 was approved Tuesday night by the Legislature, overcoming its last hurdle to the Governor’s office.
“This is a break-through day for California’s foster kids,’’ said Assembly Member Jim Beall, who introduced Assembly Bill 12, which drew bipartisan support.
“Now, these neglected and abused kids won’t have to worry about being kicked out into the street once they turn 18 with zero support. Instead of being overwhelmed with the task of cobbling together a day-to-day existence, they can concentrate on going to college, finding a job, creating a career, and becoming productive citizens.
“Today, a coalition of foster care advocates and legislators showed that even in these tough times, we can work together to find a way to improve the lives of foster care children.’’
AB 12 aligns California’s foster care with the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, making the state eligible to obtain federal funding for transitional support for qualifying foster youth and also the state’s Kin-Gap program, which facilitates the adoption of children by their relatives instead of placing them in institutionalized care.
California has about one-sixth of the nation’s 500,000 foster care children. About 4,500 foster care youth “age out’’ of the system every year in our state. Studies show they are far more susceptible to a lower rate of educational achievement and higher rates of homelessness, unemployment, unplanned pregnancies, violent crimes, and involvement with the justice system than non-foster care children.
In March, a study analyzing the fiscal impact of AB 12 determined that for every dollar government invests in supporting older youth in foster care, there is a $2.40 return on investment.
AB 12 was introduced in December 2008 by Beall and Speaker emeritus Karen Bass, the joint author.
Prior to the final vote, Bass spoke on the floor and described AB 12 as a “cost-effective victory for foster children.’’ Moments later, Assembly Member Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, told his colleagues, “I believe this is a great bill.’’
AB 12’s sponsors include the John Burton Foundation, the Judicial Council of California, the County Welfare Directors Association of California, the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, the California Alliance of Children and Family Services, and the SEIU State Council.
In addition, San Francisco 49er quarterback Alex Smith and country music star Jimmy Wayne both came to the State Capitol to lobby on behalf of AB12.
The bill was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan 26 to 8 vote. Later, the Assembly overwhelmingly passed AB 12 on a concurrence vote, placing its fate in the Governor’s hands.
If the Governor signs the bill into law, the extended benefits to eligible youth leaving the foster care system will be phased in over three years.
“AB12 gives California’s Foster Youth what many of our own kids have when turning 18, options to live at home while working or attending college,’’ said Andre V. Chapman, chief executive officer of Unity Care Group, a non-profit agency dedicated to helping disadvantaged, at-risk youth.