Calif. Governor Signs off on Kinship Equity, Support for Exploitation Victims

Note: This story was updated on June 20

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a budget that includes new funding for kinship foster caregivers and more assistance to victims of commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC).

The Relative Caregiver Funding Option Program brings $30 million dollars in funding to a county-option program that will make payments to kinship caregivers commensurate with payments made to other foster parents.

Kinship caregivers in counties that opt in will see their monthly support from the state rise from a $370 welfare benefit to more than $800.

Counties must decide on participation by October, and the program begins in January 2015. The state will fully pay for the increase for existing kinship caregivers, and counties will have to share the cost of new caregivers.

If the $30 million proves not to be enough, then the amount will be increased appropriately, according to Reed Connell, who has been working with the Alliance for Children’s Rights on this issue.

“The legislature will provide enough money to cover if all counties opt in to the program,” Connell said. “We’re really focused on making sure we urge counties to opt in when the time comes.”

The other proposal that survived, which is focused on commercially exploited children, will cost $5 million in funding for 2014-2015, and $14 million for 2015-2016. The proposal will help fund training for child welfare workers in prevention, intervention skills to work with child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as provide services that would directly meet immediate needs and care for the victims. Counties must opt in to this program as well.

If counties opt in to these programs, they will commence on January 1, 2015.

Four other child welfare-related proposals did not make the final package sent to the governor:

  • A pilot program to improve permanency outcomes for foster youth
  • Increased funding for child welfare courts, as The Imprint reported on earlier this week
  • A pay raise for social workers who work at Foster Family Agencies
  • An initiative focused on foster and kinship care recruitment, retention and support

“I’m deeply disappointed that the youth languishing in foster care were denied the right to permanent families,” said Gail Johnson-Vaughan, executive director at Mission Focused Solutions, who led the push for the permanency pilot project. “The loss was to them and to the fiscal bottom line of the counties and state.”

Victor Valle is a reporter at the Chronicle of Social Change.

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