Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Coffee house mentoring project and 14 apartments

Newly emancipated teens aided by foster care support
Galindo, Brynn. Jan. 23, 2007.

BAKERSFIELD - Where do I go from here? That is the question that is often left unanswered for foster children who turn 18 and find themselves with nowhere to go—no family, no home, and no support from the state.

That is why the state of California is looking to support these emancipated teens with much needed funding for the foster care system.

"All foster kids need families," said Rebecca Martin, a former foster child. "We need families to help us make decisions that distinguish between right and wrong."

Martin is not unlike most foster teens who on their 18th birthday are forced to find a life for themselves.

That is why last Tuesday in Sacramento, advocates for foster youth asked the state for $150 million to establish a mentoring program that would focus on helping youth find transitional housing and continue their educations.

"These are our kids. They belong to the community and we should do everything we can to help them make a successful transition," Assembly member Dave Jones (D-Sacramento).

Kern County has already established building blocks—14 apartments for foster kids transitioning from foster families to life on their own. These kids are required to be employed at least part time, some are working and going to school and they supplement the cost of housing in exchange for this opportunity.

"Can the state do more? Of course," said Bethany Christman from Child Protective Services, "but we, as a community, need to do everything we can do to make these kids productive citizens."

Christman with the Department of Human Services said places like building blocks provides an opportunity for housing and education in exchange for the state's welfare and prison costs associated with foster youths' transition is reduced.

The Kern County network for children is working on a coffee house project, where these kids can come to socialize and continue to get the mentoring and supportive services they need as young adults. No word on when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will make a decision on the $150 million proposal.