Assembly Bill 12 Clears Major Hurdle
Proposed legislation to extend foster care benefits to age 21 moved a giant step closer to becoming a reality after the Assembly Appropriations Committee endorsed Assembly Bill 12. The bill now moves to the Assembly Floor.
“The Obama Administration has opened the door for California to acquire federal dollars to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of our foster care kids,’’ said Assemblymember Jim Beall, chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care. “We have to take advantage of this golden opportunity to help children who have been neglected and abused.’’
Assembly Bill 12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, was introduced last session by Beall. But the bill – crafted to access $60 million in federal assistance -- stalled in the Appropriations Committee over questions whether California’s state-financed kinship guardian program, Kin-GAP, qualified for the money. The loss of the federal dollars would have damaged the state’s ability to extend foster care benefits to 21.
But a recent decision by the federal Administration for Children and Families to re-interpret its policies resurrected AB 12 by allowing California and other states with existing kinship guardian programs to become eligible for funding.
Without the new interpretation, California’s only alternative to obtaining those federal dollars would have involved taking 16,000 children in the Kin-Gap program out of permanent placements with relatives, returning them to dependency status for six months, and then applying for funding under a federal program that was originally designed to keep foster kids with relatives in the first place.
About 4,500 of California's 73,000 foster care children are "aged out'' annually. Research shows one in four will be jailed within two years of emancipation; 20 percent become homeless. More than half are high school dropouts; only 3 percent get a college degree. Almost half are unemployed at age 21.
“The evidence is unassailable,’’ Beall said. “Providing a stronger bridge of support to 21 creates responsible, contributing citizens and saves taxpayers millions in court, prison, and human and social costs. The passage of AB 12 will accomplish those goals.’’