California’s Senate Bill 12, which would expand benefits and support for transition-age foster youth who have also been involved with probation, was sidelined in late August. The bill was cosponsored by Senator Jim Beall (D) and the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, and would ensure that foster youth who end up in the justice system when they become adults have access to the same transition assistance that their peers do.
“A lot of people don’t even know that this population exists,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the Youth Law Center, about “crossover” youth. “The simple act of being in the wrong place on their 18th birthday could really negatively impact their progression into adulthood.”
“Crossover” refers to the state of simultaneously having a foot in both the foster care system and the justice system. One recent Chronicle article explored the progression of SB 12 so far, pointing out its roots in an earlier story comparing the fates of two brothers, one transitioning out of the foster system and one with crossover status.
According to statistics by the Youth Law Center, this group is more likely than their peers to end up back in prison, engaged with public agencies, or homeless. They estimate that there are around 990 crossover youth in California and, while this is a relatively small group, it is one badly in need of government support. For Beall and the Youth Law Center, SB 12 would mark an important development in the support of the foster youth population.
However, the bill entered the California Appropriations Committee this summer, and was placed on suspense, which means that it is temporarily on hold until the committee reconvenes next January.
Despite this, Rodriguez remains optimistic. She emphasized the importance of education in this stage, maintaining that advocates and supporters need to make sharing information on the bill a priority because the government has an obligation to help this underserved population. In her experience, whether or not a bill makes it out of suspense file is a very good barometer of how important an issue is for the legislature, and making the issue more visible is a crucial part of ultimately pushing it through.
Senator Beall agrees with Rodriguez, and is determined to continue fighting for the bill.
“We’re going to have to take another look at the bill…and see how we can accomplish SB 12’s goal in a different way. We’ll have to meet with advocates and hear what they think,” said Beall.