On Friday May 23, a handful of child welfare advocacy groups in California, aiming to carve out a share of the state’s $4.7 billion budget surplus, had cause to celebrate, while the proposals of others were left unheard.
The advocates had put forward a total of six proposals in the months leading up to the coming budget debate, which add up to roughly $149 million over several years.
Both the Senate Budget Subcommittee and the Assembly Budget Subcommittee voted last week to push forward two proposals: one focusing on improving services and training for social workers around the hot-button issue of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC), and another that would fund a program meant to derive savings by moving children and youth out of costly foster care and other placements into permanent adoptive homes.
Frank Mecca, executive director of County Welfare Directors Association of California, said of the CSEC proposal, “This is an epidemic that is beyond our traditional child welfare system’s current capacities.”
The Assembly also voted in favor of a proposal meant to normalize foster children’s experiences by increasing funds spent on services such as mentorship for foster caregivers, preferential options to keep foster children in their community by recruiting local foster caregivers, and more services to retain relatives and foster caregivers.
The rest of the proposals — ranging from a pay raise for social workers to increased payments to kin who take in their family members — will not proceed any further, at least in a public forum. A list of all six proposals, including a description of each, can be seen here.
“The budgets will now go to the conference committee, which all works behind the scenes,” said Danielle Mole, policy advocate at the California Alliance of Children and Family Services, “During this time, leadership and key players in capital will be in negotiations for the final budget product.”
The budget must be finalized by June 15.
Victor Valle is a reporter at the Chronicle of Social Change. Teddy Lederer also contributed reporting to this story.