Gov. Brown’s Final Budget: Increased Spending on Foster Youth Education, New Home Visiting and Juvenile Justice Programs

Even as the state faces a potential recession and changes to the federal tax code, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made significant investments in the state’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems in the first version of the state’s 2018-2019 budget.

The $132 billion spending proposal includes notable investments in education for foster youth in the state; a new home visiting program for moms receiving welfare; and a bid to divert some young adults from prisons into juvenile facilities.

As Brown’s time as governor winds down, his last budget includes $3 billion for the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) program, which sets aside a chunk of state tax money for school districts with high numbers of three types of students: foster youth, children from low-income families and English language learners.

LCFF has come under scrutiny in the last year, as advocates have questioned whether the extra money aimed at these students is making a difference and whether the process deserves more transparency. As part of his spending proposal, the budget summary suggested that more information about how LCFF money is allocated and spent by school districts could be required in the next fiscal year.

Gov. Brown also announced $26.7 million for a voluntary home visiting pilot program for young, first-time parents in the CalWORKs program, California’s version of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. California is one of about 20 states that does not specifically allocate money to home-visiting programs at the state level, though counties in California spend federal and other state funding streams on such programs.

Scheduled to run through 2021 at a total cost of $158.5 million in one-time TANF funds, the proposed program is similar to a pending piece of legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 992 — the so-called CalWORKs Baby Wellness and Family Support Home Visiting Program. There is no indication which home-visiting model would be utilized by either plan.

Angela Rothermel, senior policy associate for early childhood at Oakland-based Children’s Now, said that the move for the state to directly invest in an evidence-based home visiting program is “long overdue.”

“We look forward to digging in on the details to ensure that all CalWORKs moms with young children birth to 5 years can benefit from this potential pilot,” Rothermel said.

Citing “widespread interest in treating the emerging adult offender group similar to today’s juvenile offender population,” Brown’s new budget proposes creating a “young adult offender pilot program” at two sites in the state. The program aims to prevent high recidivism rates by diverting some young adults, between ages 18 and 21, from adult prisons to juvenile facilities. According to the spending proposal, this would help these youth take advantage of rehabilitative programming available through correctional facilities overseen by the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

The proposed budget would also allow youth convicted of some serious offenses in juvenile courts to stay in DJJ facilities until age 25. That decision would reverse a 2012 law that lowered the age at which youth could stay at DJJ facilities to 23.

The first draft of Gov. Brown’s spending plan acknowledged the uncertainty caused by federal policy, including Congress’ failure to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). According to the new budget plan, a lack of action to fund the health plan would have stiff consequences for the state: “failure by Congress to extend funding beyond March 2018 would increase state costs by hundreds of millions of dollars in 2018-19.”

Gov. Brown’s budget would continue to fund the implementation of the state’s Continuum of Care Reform, sweeping changes to the state’s child welfare system that include moving more foster children to family settings instead of group homes. The budget calls for $238.2 million to be spent on it in 2018-2019, including more money for the recruitment and retention of foster families.

This marks the start of negotiations over the state spending plan — Brown will bargain with the state legislature over the next five months. A finalized version of the budget must be approved by June 15.

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