Sunday, October 15, 2006

Karen Bass recommends additional foster care funding

Lawmaker pushes for more foster care aid
Kathleen Wilson, Ventura County Star, October 14, 2006

A legislator leading efforts to reform California's foster care system said Friday she planned to push for higher payments for foster care families next year.

Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-L.A., made the comments after addressing a state conference of social workers and managers in Thousand Oaks.

Bass, who helped pass a package of foster care reforms in the past legislative session, told the group she looked forward to more progress when the Legislature reconvenes next year.

"It would be very easy for legislators in Sacramento to say we fixed that last year," she told hundreds of social workers attending the County Welfare Directors Association's annual conference at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza. "We cannot allow that to be the perspective."

Foster mother Pattie Hunt, who specializes in caring for medically fragile babies, welcomed the possibility that payments could go up.

"We're taking care of these kids for $16 a day," the Ventura County resident said Friday. "You can't even get child care for that."

Bass also plans to focus on care in group homes and build on reforms enacted for emancipated foster youth, those who leave the system at 18 because they have been neither adopted nor reunited with their families.

Bass, chairwoman of a select committee on foster care in the Assembly, said she hoped to form a joint committee with the Senate next year.

"It really is just the beginning," she said.

The current state budget contains an investment of $255 million to improve the lives of foster youth, said Shirley Washington, spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services. Included is more than $100 million to expand a system tracking their needs and progress, she said.

Washington said the investment came as the result of bipartisan collaboration among the Schwarzenegger administration, the Legislature and others involved in foster care throughout the state.

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