Major Hurdle Cleared in Effort to Bridge Foster Care Funding Gap

By Orville Thomas

A key legislative committee today approved a bill aimed at providing services to foster youth after they turn 19.

Assembly Bill 1712 passed through the California State Assembly Committee on Appropriations with a 12-0 vote today, with the committee’s five Republicans abstaining. AB 1712 was designed to remedy a funding gap created when lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 12 (AB 12), which took advantage of federal funds to extend foster care to age 20.

In a statement given to The Chronicle of Social Change’s Rosa Ramirez, AB 1712’s author, Assemblyman Jim Beall (D-San Jose) said, “This bill will help close an inadvertent loophole in existing law that would have prevented foster youth from receiving extended foster youth services simply because they happen to turn 19 this calendar year.”

During the tough partisan negotiations to get AB 12 passed in 2010, lawmakers cut a deal to save cost by phasing the law in year-by-year.

Former assembly speaker and current U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D) was, alongside Beall, co-sponsor of the bill and fought for it throughout the legislative process. “I thought it was more important to pass the bill and get it into law, and then fund it along the way,” Bass said in an interview with The Chronicle today.

This compromise created a funding bubble wherein the 2,166 foster youth who turn 19 in 2012 lose the state’s support in extended foster care; leaving cash-strapped counties with the hard decision of choosing whether to keep youth in or terminate care.

Alameda, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties are funding their 19-year old foster youth, according to research conducted by Fostering Media Connections and the Contra Costa Times. Both the County Welfare Director’s Association and the California Department of Social Services told Fostering Media Connections reporters that neither agency had conducted a survey to determine which counties are extending services and which are not.

“The bill will prevent a lot of foster youth from missing out on vital services and become homeless this year,” Beall said in the statement.

AB 1712 will go to the Assembly floor for a vote next week.

Rosa Ramirez contributed to this story.

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