SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) – California’s State Senate Appropriations Committee has shelved a bill to give certain foster children critical help in making the transition to adulthood.
The development is devastating news to young people like 20-year-old Angel Russell, who describes her own early life with her drug-addicted mother as “abusive.”
“She was physically abusive,” Russell remembered. “She would ground me from food. When she would ground me from cute clothes, I refused to take them off, she would actually pin me down and cut them off of me and threw me outside naked.”
At age 15, Russell stood up for herself, but she said police took her into custody for breaking her mother’s bedroom door. For years after, she bounced between her grandmother’s home, juvenile hall, and group homes. She couch-surfed, but she says a recent landlord came on to her.
“I was living my life in this state of terror,” Russell recalled.
She hopes that the proposal, Senate Bill 12 authored by State Senator Jim Beall (D – San Jose), would give young people like her critical support to get on their feet.
Daniel Heimpel of the advocacy group Fostering Media Connections says California began extending foster care benefits to age 21 three years ago, but SB 12 would close the gap for some young people who’ve fallen through the cracks: like kids in probation who ended up in foster care, and those who were locked up on their 18th birthday.
“SB 12 would offer more foster care benefits for probation-involved foster youth,” he explained. “The importance of the law is to focus on the kids who need the help the most.”
But probation departments statewide say SB 12 will cost too much, especially when the current program is already short on money. The bill doesn’t list firm numbers, but the Youth Law Center estimates probation supervises 4,000 California foster youth. And a senate committee estimates if the measure passes, each young person would cost $80,000 $100,000 a year.
The bill passed unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the Senate Appropriations Committee sent it the “Suspense File” – a sort of limbo for bills with a fiscal impact. Those bills may or may not be heard later.
Russell, a city college student who aspires to become a social worker, says the cost would be worth it.
“Sometimes it’s impossible to get to work if you’re worried about, ‘Where am I going to sleep tonight? Am I going to be safe? What am I going to eat?'” she said.