Clearing a Road to Permanency and Stability for L.A. County Foster Youth

Los Angeles County is working to roll out a more comprehensive plan to work with young people exiting foster care and the juvenile justice system. Photo courtesy of WitnessLA

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is slated to consider two motions to improve permanency and food security among transition-age foster youth.

Tomorrow’s proposed initiatives are the latest in a series of motions focused on improving outcomes for foster youth as they age out of L.A. County’s child welfare system.

The first motion calls for the development of a plan to increase permanent placements for foster youth and dual-status kids involved in both the child welfare and probation systems, so that “they are not emancipating out of the system without a stable adult in their life.”

In California, foster youth can choose to leave foster care at age 18, or they can remain under the care of the child welfare system until age 21.

Foster kids, who rarely have the same circle of familial support as their peers outside the foster care system, need all the help they can get with the process of entering adulthood. Many youth who are “emancipated” from the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services, or from probation-supervised foster care, struggle to access housing, employment, higher education, health care and more. Many face homelessness or incarceration. A recent national study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that more than half of foster youth age out of the system without reconnecting with a single family member.

The motion, authored by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis, aims to reduce the number of young adults who choose not to remain in extended foster care, while also readying the foster youth who do stay in extended care to become self-sufficient young adults.

If the board approves the motion tomorrow, the county’s Office of Child Protection will be tasked with collaborating with DCFS, Probation and other relevant county departments and stakeholders to launch an initiative focused on improving (and tracking) permanency among foster kids in L.A. County.

The motion, if approved, will require the Office of Child Protection return to the board in 180 days with the plan and a timeline for implementation. A second motion by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl is focused on ensuring that transition-age teens and young adults do not experience food insecurity.

According to Chapin Hall’s California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study, one in five respondents reported eating less than they should. One in six survey participants reported that they or someone in their household had to skip meals because they couldn’t afford to eat.

Nearly one in four respondents said they had to skip meals for an entire day nearly every month.

And, according to a study conducted by the County Welfare Directors Association of California, only 33 percent of 19-year-olds either currently or formerly in foster care had ever accessed CalFresh (California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, also formerly known as food stamps).

Next Tuesday’s motion seeks to direct DCFS and Probation to screen foster youth at every placement change (including supervised independent living placements, transitional housing and youth who experience housing instability) and help them apply for CalFresh. The motion also directs county departments to ensure that every youth exiting foster care is given a CalFresh application during their 90-day transition period.

In addition, DCFS, Probation and the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) will be tasked with tracking the number of transition-age kids who are eligible for CalFresh and the number of kids who actually receive CalFresh benefits.

The motion also seeks to ensure that all DPSS, DCFS and Probation workers and their community-based partners are properly trained on the CalFresh application process, and the eligibility requirements for current and former foster youth.

Taylor Walker is assistant editor of WitnessLA. A version of this story originally appeared there. 

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