A helping hand
June 3, 2007
IT'S TOUGH enough for foster youths to fend for themselves when they "age out" of the system at 18. It's even more difficult for the estimated 15 percent of young adults leaving foster care with significant physical or mental disabilities.
Most of those young adults should qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) assistance, a federal program that provides $856 in monthly support for disabled people with limited income and meager assets.
But a helping hand is worthless if the potential recipients are unaware of it. Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, a Santa Rosa Democrat who has emerged as one of the champions of foster-care concerns in Sacramento, has been pushing legislation that would require county welfare agencies to screen all foster youth at age 16.5 to determine which are eligible for SSI. Her AB1331, which advanced on a 17-0 vote in the Appropriations Committee, now goes to the Assembly floor for a vote this week.
California has a parental obligation to connect these children -- our children, our collective responsibility -- with resources that can help them in the difficult transition to life on their own. It's also a matter of fiscal prudence. Young adults who "age out" of foster care without a family support system are at high risk of being unemployed or becoming homeless -- and that risk is magnified for those with disabilities.
Regrettably, another very sensible Evans bill on foster care -- AB1330, which would have required the state to keep track of psychotropic drugs given to foster youth -- stalled in the Appropriations Committee because of the Schwarzenegger administration's concerns about its cost.
Foster care requires knowing how our children are being medicated and optimizing their odds of succeeding in life. Both AB1330 and AB1331 should be approved.