More support needed for foster youth
California provides foster youth with less than 5
percent of the financial support that average parents spend on their
young adult children, according to a report released Tuesday by a San
Diego-based advocacy group.
A lack of assistance with tuition, rent and other
necessities is one of the reasons many former foster youth become
homeless or unemployed, the report by the Children's Advocacy Institute
said. "They are legally our children, said Robert Fellmeth, director of
the institute, which is affiliated with the University of San Diego
School of Law. They are your children, public officials. ... And how you
treat them is the proper measure of your devotion to family values."
On average, young adults in California receive about
$44,000 in parental financial support between their 18th and 26th
birthdays, the report said. Foster children receive less than $2,200 in
aid from the existing support programs after they leave state
guardianship at 18.
The group is calling for the state to start providing
more support in the form of a $38 million annual program that would give
a former foster children monthly stipend and services for five years
after they turn 18. The group released a cost-benefit analysis
projecting that the state would save money in the long run if the
stipend program successfully kept former foster children off welfare,
out of prison and employed.
At a Capitol news conference Tuesday, current and
former foster youth said they could use the help. Nancy O'Reilly, 26,
said she dropped out of community college soon after she turned 18
because she could not afford to support herself completely and go to
school at the same time. "I knew I was one step away from disaster, she
said. If I missed a couple of days of work, I would end up on the
O'Reilly, now a student at California State
University, Stanislaus, said it was not until she was adopted at the age
of 24 by a mentor that she was able to return to her studies. Her two
sisters, she said, were not as lucky. Abandoned by their mother when
they were in their early teens, they supported themselves as strippers
and abused drugs. Before they aged out of foster care, she said, "they
never would have said they wanted that. ... When you have no choice,
your only other choice is to be on the streets, you go into survival
Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, said he and Sen.
Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, were introducing legislation to enact
the transitional stipend program.
16 January 2007