Saturday, June 02, 2007

80,000 foster children in California

Califoria Political Desk

Evans Foster Care Reform Bill Moves to Assembly Floor
California Chronicle, June 1, 2007.

SACRAMENTO, CA) The Assembly Appropriations Committee passed a bill authored by Assemblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, to help disabled foster youth.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1331 now awaits a vote on the Assembly Floor next week.

“Foster youth are our shared responsibility,” says Evans. “We need to enact reforms to take better care of them. I am committed to improving the quality of care that we provide to foster youth.”

AB 1331 requires county child welfare agencies to screen all foster youth at age 16 for a mental or physical disability and assist them in applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federal income supplement program for the disabled which provides a monthly cash benefit. Sponsored by the John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes, the bill also allows youth with pending SSI applications to remain in foster care past their 18th birthday until their applications are processed.

“Disabled foster youth are entitled to receive this assistance,” says Evans. “They just need someone to help them apply for it.”

An estimated 15 percent of foster youth live with a serious physical or mental disability. There are nearly 80,000 children in California’s foster care system. Each year, over 4,000 youth “age out” of foster care when they turn age 18.

“Without these federal disability payments, foster youth are at risk for homelessness, unemployment, and chronic physical and mental health problems,” adds Evans.

Another one of Evans’ foster care reform bills, AB 1330, was held today in the Assembly Appropriations Committee due to cost implications on the state budget. It required the state Department of Social Services to monitor the use of psychotropic drugs by foster youth to determine if they are being overmedicated.

“I’m frustrated and saddened that the Administration inflated its cost estimates for collecting this data,” says Evans. “I will keep fighting this fight. Data from other states shows that a disproportionate number of foster youth take psychotropic drugs. But we don’t know how many of our foster youth are taking these powerful medications and why. Without this knowledge, we cannot protect our children in the state’s care.”

Further information about these bills is available online at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov

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