Three UCSB students joined 200 other members of the California Youth Connection, a local youth-led organization dedicated to improving the nation’s foster care system, to meet with legislators in Sacramento earlier this month.
CYC met with policymakers to share their vision for improving the foster parent evaluation process, proposing a bill that would require the State Department of Social Services to develop and implement a uniform process for assessing the qualifications of potential caregivers. Of the 200 CYC representatives, four members were from the Santa Barbara County Division, and the local organization was introduced to the Senate floor by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. Authored by State Assembly member Jim Frazier, the potential legislation will undergo formal drafting beginning January of next year.
According to Alana Osaki, co-founder of the CYC Santa Barbara County Division, the bill directs attention to the various aspects of a good foster child-parent match. Currently, Osaki said, foster children and parents are paired based on need and ability of the parents to provide basic support.
“The new legislation will attempt to find a better fit for the child [and] not just ensure the monetary stability is there,” Osaki said.
Once drafted, the bill will work to provide better compatibility between foster parents and children and allow children over the age of 10 to provide feedback on the quality of his or her care every six months.
According to Osaki, such compatibility requires basic qualities of affection, which children need most.
“Nothing can beat care,” Osaki said. “That’s all kids want, just love and care.”
Avanti Alias, president of the CYC Santa Barbara County Division, said several states have implemented caregiver evaluation requirements for foster homes serving developmentally disabled adults, but Florida is the only state to have general foster care evaluations written into law.
As a result, passing the legislation would be a landmark achievement since it would finally create a system of consistent care for foster youth and grant these children a voice.
“You’re lucky if you get to see your social worker more than twice — once at placement and once at emancipation,” Alias said.
Current practices of foster care can inadvertently neglect the needs of foster children by not including uniform and consistent policies that address all the needs of these youth, according to Osaki.
“Right in the beginning, [foster parents] go through all of these classes and get training and then they’re not really seen again,” Osaki said. “Social workers come in every so often, but they have such a heavy case load that they don’t really address the children.”
Chantel Johnson, legislative and policy coordinator at CYC, said she carries an optimistic views of the bill’s possibility to pass into law as it does not hold any heavy costs for taxpayers.
“We consider the bill to be cost effective and don’t see reason for it not to pass,” Johnson said.
In 2010, CYC helped implement Assembly Bill 12, which gave foster youth under the age of 17 the option to receive additional care and transitional support until the age of 21, beginning in January 2011.
The CYC plans to continue addressing existing needs within the foster care system, allowing for the continual improvement foster parents’ and children’s quality of life.
“The foster care system has been seen as offering a house for kids,” Osaki said. “California Youth Connection is trying to make that house a home.”
For those interested in getting involved with the CYC, contact Osaki at firstname.lastname@example.org.