UPDATE, September 10, 2013: SB 528 (see history below) passed the Senate today on a 32-5 vote, and is headed to Brown's desk.
As described this morning in the Chronicle of Social Change:
The bill will lead to the first true accounting of how many pregnant and parenting youth are in the foster care system in California, according to [Amy Lemley, at left, policy director of bill-sponsor San Francisco's John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes].
The bill has two key parts:
- The California Department of Social Services would be required to collect data on the number of parenting youth in foster care, their ethnicity, placement type, county of origin and length of stay in the foster care system
- Information would be collected about whether or not the child of the dependent parent has been placed in foster care.
Early versions of the bill, which was authored by State Sen. Leland Yee (D), authorized more support services to parenting foster youth. Subsidized child care for the teen parents was included, along with state-mandated sexual development education to all youth in foster care starting at age 12. The bill also required specialized conferences for pregnant youth in foster care to ensure they have access to services, including prenatal care.
UPDATE, June 3, 2013: SB 528 (see below) passed the state Senate on May 29, and heads to the Assembly. Amy Lemley, at left, policy director of bill-sponsor San Francisco's John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes, said, "“SB 528 will help pregnant youth in foster care prepare for parenthood by requiring local child welfare agencies refer pregnant youth to existing child and maternal health resources, including prenatal care and information about how to prevent subsequent pregnancies...Currently, 20 percent of youth in foster care don’t access prenatal care until their sixth month of pregnancy, which has a range of negative outcomes include low birth weight. Los Angeles has started to take this approach and is seeing better birth outcomes among our state’s most vulnerable children.”
(Another foster-youth-oriented bill sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), SB 342, ensures that monthly social worker visits of foster youth happen in the home of the child, thus giving social workers have a more complete picture of the child’s home life and welfare...Data from the state Dept. of Social Services shows nearly 24 percent of case worker visits occur outside the child’s home -- leading to instances where some placements were not been visited by a social worker for an extended period of time. “Far too often, foster children are being placed in substandard group homes and foster homes because no one has visited the placement home for months,” said Yee. “When the state removes a child from their home, we have a responsibility to ensure that the home in which they are placed meets basic standards.") -- From WitnessLA.
March 4, 2013: State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services, has introduced SB 528, a bill that will, if passed, "expand statewide a successful program in Los Angeles [Team Decision Making; LA Dept. of Children and Family Services] that provides parenting teens in foster care with individual conferences with specialists who can explain resources available and help facilitate a plan for raising the [teen parent's] child." The bill is expected to pass Yee's committee and reach the appropriations committee "within two weeks," according to Ryann Blackshere, reporting in the Chronicle of Social Change.
Nonetheless, bill supporters are braced for a reaction from the subsidized child care community.
...Adam Keigwin, at left, [chief of staff for] Sen. Yee’s office says while cost [associated with the terms of the legislation] is certainly a concern, [supporters] expect there will be a number of policy questions associated with the bill, particularly surrounding what group of people would lose priority if parenting foster youth are added.
“When you bump someone to the top of the [priority] list, someone goes down. But it still doesn’t make sense that foster parents get priority but not the youth who are parents,” said Keigwin.
According to data from the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators and the American Public Human Services Association, teens in foster care are 2.5 times more likely to get pregnant by age 19 than their peers not in foster care. Of the 21-year-old youths who have "timed out" of foster care, 50% report having "gotten someone pregnant," compared with 19% of their peers who were not "in the system." A report, "Pregnant and Parenting Foster Youth: Their Needs, Their Experiences," quoted by Blackshere, "at least 30% of the female foster youth interviewed had been pregnant more than once..."
An excerpt from the text of 528: ...Under existing law,minor parents are required to be given the ability to attend school,complete homework, and participate in age and developmentally appropriate activities separate from parenting. This bill would declare the intent of the Legislature to ensure that complete and accurate data on pregnant and parenting minor and nonminor dependents and their children is collected, and would require child welfare agencies to ensure that minor parents and nonminor dependent parents have access to social workers or resource specialists who have received specified training, and that case plans are developed and updated through a prescribed team decisionmaking process. This bill would require child welfare agencies, local educational agencies, and child care resource and referral agencies to make reasonable and coordinated efforts to ensure that minor parents and nonminor dependent parents who have not completed high school have access to school programs that provide onsite or coordinated child care, and that minor parents are given priority for subsidized child care. By requiring social workers and county agencies to perform additional duties, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(A sample letter of support for this bill to be sent to Yee's office has been made available by the staff
of the John Burton Foundation, and may be accessed here. The John Burton Foundation, along with
the Children's Law Center and the Alliance for Children's Rights were "the major push for [Yee's] bill,"
according to Blackshere.) To review Los Angeles County's Dept. of Children and Family Services's
procedural handbook for social workers in contact with pregnant foster teens, click here.