A California Senate bill aimed at boosting benefits to foster youth involved with the juvenile justice system was amended on Tuesday to ensure that those youth who were in secure confinement on their 18th birthday would not be stripped of extended foster care benefits.
Last year, The Chronicle of Social Change published a story about the divergent paths of two San Diego brothers in the foster care system. Because Terrick Bakhit was in detention on his 18th birthday, he was denied eligibility for extended foster care support under AB12. In California, foster youth – including those who have been involved in the juvenile justice system – can elect to receive extended benefits until the age of 21, and the benefit can help ease their transition into adulthood.
However, under current law, those foster youth who turn 18 while residing in a correctional facility without a foster care placement awaiting them on release are cut off from those benefits.
Earlier this year, California Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) introduced SB12, a bill inspired by Bakhit’s story that would allow foster youth confined on their 18th birthday to receive benefits, as well as other foster youth involved with the probation system from ages 18 to 21.
After clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, SB12 was amended on Tuesday to focus on closing the loophole that has denied extended benefits to foster youth like Terrick. However, language that would more broadly guarantee benefits to all crossover youth who are detained and released to someone other than a parent before the age of 18 has been stripped away.
The bill will come up for a vote in the California Senate in the coming weeks that could send it to the Assembly for consideration.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story the author misidentified the amendments made to SB12. Previously, the bill did not contain any provisions that would affect the extended benefits of any youth incarcerated after the age of 18. The article has been updated to specify that the only population that might have been affected were those youth detained and released before their 18th birthday.
Jeremy Loudenback is the child trauma editor for Fostering Media Connections and The Chronicle of Social Change.