December 14, 2013: Three critical issues for foster children and their caregivers that could be signficantly addressed by judicious funding and strengthened policies are highlighted in a posting today on Chronicle of Social Change by Reed Connell, at left, executive director of Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance.
As Connell notes, the flexible use of state funds granted to counties under Governor Brown's realignment policies, brings the possibility of solving social problems down to the local level. (As he titled a post last spring, realignment is far more than "just jails.")
Reed's three suggestions for county government social-welfare investment:
Expand THP-Plus housing for former foster youth: California’s Assembly Bill 12 has given 18- to 21-year-old foster youth the right not to be homeless, but we still need THP-Plus, which provides housing for former foster youth up to age 24, and likely we need even more of it than before.
Thousands of former foster and probation youth around the state turned 18 before AB12 went into effect, and many of them are homeless or unstably housed. Also, in 2014, the first cohort of youth who DID have access to AB12 will turn 21 and thus “age out.” ...
(Read in full: The John Burton Foundation's annual report for the THP-Plus Foundation, just released. It shows that In FY 2012–13, THP-Plus programs existed in 50 (out of 58)counties, a figure that remained unchanged from the -'11-'12. The eight counties without operational THP-Plus programs were Alpine, Amador, Colusa, Modoc, Mono, San Benito, Sierra, and Siskiyou. Likewise, the number of non-profit providers operating THP-Plus remained consistent: there were 57 nonprofit providers collectively operating 81 different programs across the state. These figures reflect the fact that a number of providers operate THP-Plus in multiple counties.)
Equitably fund relative placements: Considering that all foster care policy over the past 20 years has prioritized family connections and placements with kin, it’s a stark irony that California inequitably compensates relative caregivers. As noted in a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Janis Spire of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, as a result of California’s refusal to pay state-only foster care benefits to relatives, a relative foster parent who takes in a child that doesn’t qualify for federal foster care benefits receives just $351 per month to provide for their care. An unrelated foster parent receives $820 per month to care for that same child...
KidsData reports the numbers for 2012: of the 55,218 children in CA foster care,19,761 are in kinship care. Let's do the math on that: $9.3 million a month "saved" by short-changing relatives in a 24/7 commitment in what statistics show are overwhelmingly low-income families.
Provide increased support to parenting youth: ...Recent research underscores the need for robust support for parenting teen foster youth. ...Several counties, including Alameda, have developed child care options for parenting minors using other funding streams. These models could be replicated and/or expanded.