Rev. Shane Harris, local advocate for foster children, calls on Governor to extend foster care 180 days for youths aging out of the system
By Miriam Raftery
File photos: Gov. Gavin Newsom and Rev. Shane Harris
April 13, 2020 (San Diego) – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $42 million investment to protect foster youths and foster families impacted by COVID-19over the next three months, including $40.6 million in state general fund money and $1.4 million in federal funds.
The Governor is making more than $27 million available to help families stay together, nearly $7 million to support social workers and $3 million to support Family Resource Centers, among other expenditures.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, stable and nurturing environment free from fear, abuse and neglect,” said Governor Newsom. “Our foster youth and the families who care for them need our support to get through this difficult time. We’re ramping up funding on initiatives that keep families together and support the social workers who provide critical services to help families thrive.”
But Rev. Shane Harris with the People’s Action Network, a former foster child and San Diego advocate for foster youths, wants the Governor to go farther to protect foster youths turning 18 during the COVID-19 shut down order statewide. “It is important executive action is done to ensure that California foster youth who are set for emancipation in the next 180 days are deferred if a youth doesn’t want to leave foster care during #COVID19,” Harris posted on Facebook. “We need state law, not just leaving it up to counties,” he added.
Specifically, the Governor’s funding announced today includes:
- Supporting Families Struggling to Stay Together – $27,842,000
This funding will provide a $200 per month supplement to families in the Emergency Response and Family Maintenance programs and who need additional support to be able to stay together.
- Additional Social Worker Outreach – $6,896,552
Support for social worker overtime and additional outreach by county social workers to foster family caregivers at higher risk of COVID-19 (e.g. caregivers who are over 60 years old). Social workers will engage these caregivers to identify specific needs or concerns.
- Family Resource Centers – $3,000,000
Family Resource Centers play a critical role in preventing child abuse and neglect, strengthening children and families, and connecting families to an array of county support systems of care. This funding will provide direct support and services to foster families, including material items, assistance with isolation needs, parenting resources, and staff time to help link families to other state and federal supports (e.g. food, housing, etc.).
- Expansion of Helplines – $250,000
Funds will assist 2-1-1 and Parents Anonymous to offer immediate assistance to families in crisis who are seeking assistance. Parents Anonymous will provide expanded hours of services, link parents to online support groups and will make referrals to county and local services and Family Resource Centers as needed.
- Age Extension for Foster Youth – $1,846,165
Approximately 200 young adults age out of the foster care system every month. Too many of them are at risk of homelessness and food insecurity. During this crisis, foster care payments and eligibility will be extended to help them maintain their living arrangements and to provide food security.
- Additional Support for Resource Families Impacted by COVID-19 – $1,728,655
Families impacted by COVID-19 can receive higher monthly reimbursement rates to cover the extra costs associated with supporting children with more complex needs. Flexibility for counties to use these reimbursement rates will make sure that foster children can stay in their homes and not be moved into shelters or other facilities.
- Extended Timeframe for Caregiver Approvals – $166,000
Funding will allow caregivers to continue to be paid beyond 365 days while awaiting Resource Family Approval. The extension in funding is required due to delays in caregiver approvals and caseworker diversion to emergency work.
- Access to Technology – $313,128
iFoster will give more foster youth access to cell phones and laptops so they can stay connected with their families and communities, and continue to participate in educational opportunities during this crisis. This will allow the purchase of 2,000 laptops and 500 cell phones and will provide for short-term staffing assistance to iFoster to help process the applications and get phones configured and shipped to foster youth quickly.
Governor Newsom is also directing the state Government Operations Agency to utilize the State Surplus Property Program to identify laptops that can be distributed to foster youth attending higher education.
The foster care system has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 due to school closures and social isolation.