Youth and Organizations Work to Help Kids in System Gap

As The Chronicle has reported, thousands of California teens face a disruption in foster services because of the way a key law extended foster care to 21.  A number of youth-serving organizations throughout California are creating programs and advocating policy to plug leak.

California Youth Connection (CYC) is already on the job. As a statewide youth-led organization advocating for the rights of foster youth, they have helped draft AB 1712, which will change the terms of the bill to allow those youth who were 18 on January 1, 2012 to now be eligible until they turn 21.

“AB 12 was used to prevent difficult outcomes for foster youth,” said Chantel Johnson, Legislative and Policy Director for CYC. “AB 12 was meant to rectify that and this oversight in the law makes that harder because it gives youth false hope.”

AB 1712 passed the Human Services committee, and nowawaits approvall from the State Assembly appropriations committee. CYC is holding a rally on May 24th at the State capitol to testify in support of the bill.

The committee will vote that day and, if they approve the bill, will pass it to the state senate for approval.

While youth focus on state policy to make a change for these kids in the gap, others are focusing their efforts on the community level.

Youth leaders of the San Francisco Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP) have been holding AB 12 focus groups in order to inform youth of their options as they emancipate from care. In April they held a focus group with the Statewide Youth Council to educate youth on post-emancipation resources such as housing.

The ILSP program also hosts Friday social events called “TGIF,” during which they watch movies and discuss available resources in the county. During these weekly discussions, youth leaders of the event talk to others about AB 12 and what options they have.

“We’re preparing them for what’s going to happen with AB 12, and in particular, housing options,” said Ka’Tina Jackson, 21, AB 12 Youth Ambassador for the County of San Francisco. “We’re going at them from a youth perspective, instead of hearing it from an adult or authority figure. It’s easier to listen to a peer.”

Over in Alameda County, social workers are mandated to organize emancipation conferences with each youth to help them figure out their plan post-foster care. Those kids in the gap who will be forced to exit soon can speak with a social worker, foster parent, and whomever else they’d like to attend the conference in order to help them decide what their next option will be.

Ken Shaw, child welfare supervisor for the Alameda County Independent Living Skills Program, says the county will be using funds to keep all youth in care until 21, regardless of the rolling out process. He says he has heard from colleagues in other counties that aren’t following suit.

“It’s going to make it tougher on those kids if the county doesn’t pay to care for them,” said Shaw. It could make them fall into the gap and lose housing and other resources.”

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