L.A. County Votes to Create Foster Youth ‘Bill of Rights’

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a “bill of rights” for foster youth that lays out rights, resources and services available to kids and their foster parents.

California has its own such bill, but county officials said it’s outdated and doesn’t include county programs.

Supervisor Janice Hahn championed the move.

“The former foster youth who spoke at (Tuesday’s) meeting told us how frustrating it can be maneuvering the foster care system when you do not know your own rights or the resources available to you,” Hahn said. “This bill of rights will be a way for both foster youth and foster parents to know every tool, service and program that has been created to support them.”

Examples include a policy that allows social workers to act in lieu of a parent to help a foster child get a driver’s license and the fact that foster youth have access to MediCal until age 26.

Six current and former foster youth will join the bill of rights working group. Hahn had originally proposed two representatives but upped the total based on feedback at the board meeting.

The group, to be led by the Department of Children and Family Services, is also expected to include county lawyers, mental health workers, probation officers, health care professionals and representatives of various community- based organizations.

Advocates said that concerns about navigating the foster care system deter some potential foster parents at a time when the need is great.

Others noted the complexities of the foster care system.

“I’m a 40-something-year-old woman, a lawyer and a mom. I’ve worked and volunteered in the child welfare system for over 15 years and I still struggle to keep up with what the laws are,” Wende Nichols-Julien told the board. “The people within the system, the people affected by these laws deserve to know what the laws say.”

In Nichols-Julien’s case, understanding the laws helped a girl she was mentoring avoid moving into a group home while she was working to reunite with her family.

A state effort to reform foster care requires that foster youth have access to specialized mental health treatment, transitional support as they move from foster to permanent home placement, connections with siblings and extended family members and transportation to school.

Roughly 35,000 children and young adults receive child welfare services from the Department of Children and Family Services. A little less than half live outside their homes in a foster care or group home.

A report back is expected in 120 days.

County Wants More Foster Children Placed with Relatives

June 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to back efforts to increase the number of foster children placed with relatives, rather than assigning them to group homes.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis proposed that staffers come up with a plan to increase foster placements with relatives.

The move was prompted in part by Assembly Bill 403, the Continuum of Care Reform, set to take effective next January.

The law — which Kuehl and Solis called a “major shift in the way we approach child welfare” — requires that children be directed away from long-term group homes and placed in a family setting whenever possible.

“L.A. County has already proven that we know how to increase relative placements,” Kuehl said. “With the Continuum of Care Reform on the horizon and research indicating that children placed with relatives have better educational, health and behavioral outcomes, it’s a no-brainer to build on our success.”

An important element of the plan will be a method for identifying family members as soon as possible after a child is removed from an abusive or neglectful situation.

Currently, more than half of the approximately 18,000 children in out-of-home care in the county are placed in the homes of relatives, compared to 29 percent nationally and 40 percent statewide, according to the supervisors’ motion.

“While Los Angeles County exceeds the national rate for placing foster youth with relatives, there is always more work to be done to increase and support relative placements,” Solis said. “This motion provides a pathway to reduce delays in placing children with their relatives and to increase placement options.”

Last year, the board opted into a state program that offers “kinship caregivers” — family members who take in a foster child — the same financial support as other foster parents.

About half of the county’s kinship caregivers are 51-70 years old. Many live on fixed incomes, making it hard for them to cover the costs of caring for a child who may have landed on their doorstep in the middle of the night after an incident of abuse.

The county offers up to $2,000 in emergency funding for caregivers and set up a “warm line” earlier this year to lend support to foster families.

Compliance with the new law — which seeks to relegate group homes to offering short-term, intensive care services, rather than long-term placements — will also mean recruiting more foster parents overall.

The county’s Department of Children and Family Services has struggled to find enough families to care for all of its foster kids. Officials have attributed the problem to the financial pressures of raising a child and the county’s policy of working toward reunifying families.

Some parents are reluctant to foster a child who may ultimately be returned to their birth parents.

Information on fostering and adoption is available at www.shareyourheartla.org or by calling (888) 811-1121.

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