Tuesday, March 27, 2007

$2 million allocated for transitional housing program

Funds boost foster kids' chances of succeeding
Geyer, Katherine. The Signal, March 27, 2007.

A new county-wide program will ensure that foster children won't be abandoned when they turn 18 and leave the foster care system.

At the request of Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, the state recently allocated $2 million to the county to start the Transitional Housing Program Plus for 18- to 24-year-olds emancipated from foster care.

The program will provide them with housing to help ease the transition out of foster care and help them to become self-sufficient.

"Allowing young people to emancipate without the necessary support is another form of abuse," Antonovich said in a statement.

There are currently 1,500 youths who emancipate from foster care within Los Angeles County each year.

"Too often, youth emancipate without the basics: a place to live, a job, a high school diploma or the support of a caring adult," he said.

"Many will become uninsured, unemployed, incarcerated and/or homeless."

Since 1998, the number of youths emancipating annually in California has grown by 38 percent.

In other counties throughout the state, participants in the program have shown to be three times less likely to eventually become incarcerated and four times less likely to become homeless.

Participants in the program live alone or with roommates in apartments and single-family homes and can participate in the program for up to 24 cumulative months.

"It's a place for them to live and have services, to work, to go to school, to take care of their children, whatever they need for them to graduate into successful adulthood," said Helen Berberian, Antonovich's children and family services deputy.

She said there is going to be a solicitation process so that successful bidders are awarded contracts to provide the services.

The only services provided to emancipated youths in the county are job training services, said Tony Bell, spokesman for Antonovich.

He said Antonovich is working with lawmakers in Sacramento to get legislation that would make supportive housing services mandatory for 18- to 21-year-olds who have aged out of the foster care system.