Budget Package Increases Support for Services for Foster Youth
As part of the state’s child welfare system, California’s foster care system provides temporary care to children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. The 2015-16 budget further boosts spending for a number of programs that support foster youth or other children involved with the child welfare system. Specifically, the spending plan:
- Begins implementation of the “continuum of care” reform to improve services for foster youth. In January 2015, the Department of Social Services released a report detailing 19 steps the state can take to reduce the number of foster youth residing in group homes for extended periods of time. The 2015-16 budget begins implementation of the continuum of care reform as the first step in a multiyear process. Specifically, the spending plan provides $17.7 million General Fund to both recruit and support foster parents and relative caregivers.
- Boosts funding for the Foster Youth Services Program. Administered by the California Department of Education, the Foster Youth Services Program provides services intended to enhance academic achievement. The 2015-16 budget significantly boosts funding for Foster Youth Services with a more than $10 million increase in Proposition 98 funding over the 2014-15 enacted level – but provides $15 million less than the funding level in the Legislature’s original version of the 2015-16 budget. Total Proposition 98 funding for the program is $25.4 million in 2015-16.
- Increases funding for legal support for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Dependency counsel represent children and parents who are involved in the judicial system due to abuse and neglect. Currently, California’s average caseload of 248 cases per attorney is well over the recommended caseload of 188 cases per attorney. Reducing this average caseload will shorten the amount of time children and families are involved in the judicial system. The 2015- 16 budget agreement increases funding for dependency counsel services by $11 million, bringing total funding to $114.7 million in special funds. This is $22.1 million less than what was included in the Legislature’s original version of the budget.
- Funds student support services for foster youth at community colleges. Senate Bill 1023 (Liu, Chapter 771 of 2014) established a program to support foster youth success at community colleges. The 2015-16 budget agreement provides $15 million in Proposition 98 funds from community college “student success programs” funding to implement this this law.
The 2015-16 budget agreement does not include other legislative proposals related to child welfare services, including a housing pilot program for homeless families involved with the child welfare system and housing support services for foster youth who are over the age of 18.