By no means has anyone credited AB12 to be the “end all, be all” for emancipating foster youth, but I will say it has served as an alleviation to thousands of youth.
AB12 is a policy in which newly emancipated foster youth in California receive monetary funding for a period after emancipation. Though there isn’t enough empirical data yet to definitively label the policy a through-and-through success, and arguments exist regarding the “dependency effect” it may have on youth, what can be said is this: “It’s better than nothing.”
If there is an argument to be made about whether the policy is yielding solid long-term benefits, I would suggest simply looking at the emancipation process of youth who didn’t have AB12. Here are a few statistics for emancipating foster youth: 50 percent of former foster youth will be homeless during their first two years after exiting foster care, 60 percent of girls become pregnant within a few years after leaving the foster care system, 50 percent of youth leaving foster care are unemployed, and lastly, of all emancipating foster youth, only 3 percent will graduate college.
Having emancipated in 2009, I fall into the unlucky group that missed the implementation of AB12, and have personally been homeless, with no support from parents as I couch-surfed my first year through college. Luckily for me, I was able to stay in touch with Beyond Emancipation (B:E) in Alameda County.
Through B:E, I was able to gain financial support for nearly every need. I was given food vouchers, book money, transportation funds, a life counselor in the form of a case worker, and even housing options. This assistance allowed me to successfully make my way through college and graduate from UC Berkeley with multiple degrees.
Though I was able to take advantage of these opportunities, as the statistics above illustrate, this is rare for someone in my demographic. In fact, staying vigilant was the only way I even found out about these opportunities, and in some cases limited funding meant that if I received funding such as the Family Unification Program (FUP) housing voucher, others did not. My brother and sister emancipated before me, and did not have these opportunities afforded to them. In short, neither graduated college, and my sister became pregnant and homeless her first year after emancipation.
Unfortunate circumstances were common occurrences that surrounded many pre-AB12 foster youth. Though there will always be critics of any social program seen as giving “free” assistance, and some youth report that the funds given by the newly administered policy don’t go far enough, we can see that any step to circumvent negative outcomes of emancipated foster youth is a step in the right direction.