Foster Care Services Protected

Two of California’s largest counties, Alameda and Los Angeles, have announced they will protect foster teens facing a disruption in foster care coverage because of gaps in a law that gradually expands services to age 21 by 2014. Teens whose services are disrupted stand to lose housing, financial assistance, and medical benefits, as well as mentorship and transitional services. Under AB 12, foster care coverage provides these services for vulnerable youth up to the age of 19. While they can re-apply in January 2013 for services when AB 12 extends to age 20, it still leaves a “bubble” or gap of non-coverage for these youth. As a result, more than 2,100 foster youth turning 19 this year will find themselves without services and benefits. The action taken by Alameda and Los Angeles counties essentially halves the number of teens who will lose services as the foster care age ratchets up to 21. Los Angeles County is home to 853 “bubble” teens, and Alameda is home to 139, according to a database shared by the California Department of Social Services and University of California at Berkeley. Combined with the 75 in San Francisco, which has also announced its intention to cover “bubble” youths, just over half of the teens affected by the situation will retain foster care services. California has a county-administered system of social services. So counties must decide whether or not to use their funds to support youth while waiting for the phase in of AB 12. Child welfare advocates would like to see the other 56 counties follow the lead of Los Angeles and Alameda. However, even Alameda and Los Angeles county officials are unsure how they are going to pay for the teens yet. Both counties are trying to find out if they can spend federal money to support the teens, or must if it all must come from county accounts? The options remain unclear. The established rules may restrict these counties from using the extra money to fund AB 12 implementation. While Alameda and Los Angeles Counties are using their county dollars to cover youths on the bubble, it is unclear how the state’s other 56 counties, who are not covered by the same regulations, are going to fund the gap of coverage for the foster youth in their systems. Among the other counties with the largest populations of “bubble” teens are San Bernardino with 141, San Diego with128 and Sacramento with 123. For information on California’s foster care system, visit http://chronicleofsocialchange.wordpress.com.

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