Vulnerable Young Children will Now Receive Uninterrupted Services

Four-year-old Jessica lives with her grandmother in the Antelope Valley, where the highest percentages of 0-5 year olds in foster care reside, and the fewest resources are available. Jessica has cerebral palsy and significant communication and social-emotional issues resulting from prenatal exposure to drugs and neglect as an infant. She was placed in a non-relative foster home and was making progress through services at local regional center. When she moved to her grandmother’s in Antelope Valley from Los Angeles, Jessica’s therapies terminated and her progress stagnated, and then worsened, because of the move.

Jessica is still using very few words and does not yet know the names of colors, numbers or letters—knowledge she should know at her age, and that she began to grasp months ago in her therapies.

Unfortunately, Jessica’s situation is not unusual. To combat this growing problem, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1089 (Calderon), which ensures young children with developmental disabilities and delays speedily resume services when they move to a new foster home. The Alliance sponsored the bill and has helped champion its success over the past two years.

“Foster youth are one of California’s most vulnerable populations. It is the State’s job to ensure that these youth receive much needed services to ensure their developmental progress,” said Assemblymember Calderon. “AB 1089 creates a uniform procedure for the transfer of foster youth’s case files in order to prevent unnecessary gaps in services.”

Before AB 1089, the Alliance had to fight tooth and nail for speedy services once children moved. Or we had to get creative. For Jessica, this was the case.

Without a swift regional center transfer, Jessica was left without supports from the regional center, making getting the best services possible from the school district even more critical. The Alliance had to find a preschool that fit Jessica’s special needs. Because of limited preschool choices and the school district’s limited options for young children with disabilities, the Alliance created an Individualized Education Program that placed her in a preschool environment with non-disabled peers. The plan allowed her to receive the speech and language therapy necessary to improve her communication skills and allowed for time with a special education teacher to prepare her for kindergarten.

While IEPs are an invaluable tool for the children the Alliance serves, we are looking to do more. Through California’s new public education funding system, known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), there is an opportunity to funnel education dollars to pre-school-age children. The earlier children are reached with education services, the better their long-term outcomes will be. Early learning opportunities also improve children’s social-emotional and cognitive development, which studies have shown are the most important keys to learning when a child enters kindergarten.

Regional center services and therapies coupled with a quality preschool experience have allowed Jessica to progress leaps and bounds. She now enjoys going to school and actively participates in class. AB 1089 will help thousands of children quickly access life-changing services so they too can flourish in the classroom.