Evaluation of Foster Parents Still In Hands of California Youth

Bonita Tindle’s foster parents gave their biological children more expensive gifts at Christmas time than their foster children.

This difference in treatment made Tindle feel less important than the other kids in her home.

“Foster parents need to be evaluated sometimes,” said Tindle.

California Assembly Bill 196 would have created a caregiver evaluation process to allow foster youth like Tindle to assess their living placement. Yet last week, the bill failed to move beyond the appropriations committee because of the price.

“Bills with a certain price tag, whether they are a good idea or not, have a hard time passing,” said Kyle Sporleder, statewide legislative coordinator at California Youth Connection.

So now, foster youth are brainstorming new ways to continue the fight to create some kind of evaluation process.

California Youth Connection (CYC), a statewide foster youth advocacy organization, is the main supporter of the bill.

“The quality of the placements is so critical to what happens when people leave care,” said Kate Teague, regional coordinator at CYC who regularly meets with youth across the bay area.

“There are some people who succeed despite everything. But if you can’t get the home right, it’s a set up for all those negative things that people run into.”

Homelessness, joblessness and difficulty matriculating through academic institutions are some of the negative outcomes that Teague says youth in care are at risk for when they don’t have strong support systems at home. To combat these risks, CYC decided at their annual summer policy conference last year to create a bill that would require a caregiver evaluation bill. The group then worked with California State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor to introduce AB 196.

AB 196 started off strong in the Human Services Committee. But when the appropriations committee gave it a price tag of 1.1 million, the prospect of passing became low.

Now the bill is dead for the year. But the efforts of foster youth to push the bill remain alive.

California Youth Connection will convene at their summer policy conference in July and decide how to continue the push for this legislation next year. Part of the effort may be pushing for similar types of legislation at the county level.

“With [youth] members, having some kind of evaluation continues to be important,” said Teague.  “Maybe legislation isn’t the best way to go about it. Maybe it is through the county.”

Whatever the method, Tindle believes such an evaluation would make a difference for youth in the foster care system.

“I think that having an evaluation process is a good idea because it lets the foster child know that they can speak out against what is going wrong, or tell what is going right,” said Tindle.

CYC members will decide this summer if they will continue their efforts for an evaluation in the state legislative process, or if organizational chapters will persuade county administrators to implement a similar process.

Ryann Blackshere is a staff reporter with the Chronicle of Social Change.

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