Changing Policies to Better Support Foster Youth and Their Caregivers
Many children in foster care face serious developmental delays and disabilities as a result of abuse, neglect and prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol. California’s Regional Centers provide specialized services and supports to improve and overcome these conditions. However, under existing law, there are no requirements to transfer these services if a child moves, which foster children often do. As a result, foster children are not only moved to new and unfamiliar surroundings, but are also deprived of imperative services for an indefinite period. Consequently, children regress and the instability they face intensifies.
Assemblymember Ian C. Calderon has introduced legislation (AB 1089), sponsored by the Alliance, that would delineate clear timelines for the transfer process and would ensure that foster children are protected from the terrible impact of delays in acute therapies.
Relative Caregivers Get Short End of the Stick
Kinship care is the lynchpin holding the child welfare system together. Placements with relatives mitigate trauma and provide children with connections to family and permanency. Federal law requires states to provide preference to relative caregivers when finding a home for children in foster care. In California, however, relative guardians and adoptive parents receive less support for children than non-relative guardians. These policies put burdens on the very individuals most likely to provide safe, stable and permanent homes for foster youth.
Assemblymember Ken Cooley has introduced legislation (AB 985), which is being sponsored by the Alliance, to address this disparity and ensure that relative guardians and adoptive parents receive the same critical level of support as non-relatives so they can provide for the basic needs of the child in their care.
Increasing Support for Pregnant and Parenting Foster Youth
Foster youth who are pregnant or parenting face dual challenges of being in foster care as well as being a young, usually single, parent. Studies of both groups have found that they will experience higher than average rates of poverty, unemployment and low educational attainment.
Senator Leland Yee has introduced legislation (SB 528), sponsored by the Alliance, to assist these vulnerable young people by ensuring they have access to child care so they can attend school and get a job.
We will keep you informed of the progress of each of these bills in the coming months. Stay tuned!