Earlier this week, the Assembly unanimously passed a bill to increase housing and essential services for non-minor foster children.
An expansion of housing, post-child needs for foster dependents
Assembly Bill 1979, authored by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), would require county foster placement agencies to evaluate the resources and programs it has to meet the needs of non-minor dependents and how it could house them in emergency cases for those in the Extended Foster Youth Program. The bill would also expand the definition of a supervised independent living setting to include a transitional living setting, filling in the gap of foster child housing and housing non-minor foster dependents.
Assemblywoman Friedman and other supporters have supported the bill largely to reduce the number of foster care children who face housing issues after being released from the system, and to provide a bridge to stable housing as they enter college or the job market. Supporters have also noted that with COVID-19 and the affordable housing crisis, it has only made the situation worse for foster children finding a place to stay after becoming 18.
AB 1979 noted that over 35 percent of transition-age foster youth had reported being homeless while being actively enrolled in extended foster care, showing the need for such a bill.
“California’s foster youth are particularly vulnerable during our housing crisis, and the economic fallout of COVID-19 has only exacerbated the challenges they face,” said Assemblywoman Friedman in a statement on Friday. “Since taking office in 2016, I’ve been working to break down the bureaucratic barriers in our foster care system to ensure that transition-age foster youth have safe, stable housing and the support that they need as they grow into adulthood.”
Unanimous, bipartisan support for AB 1979
The bill was one of the few this session to be passed unanimously from committees to floor votes. Democrats, the major force behind the bill, have been wanting to improve the foster program, especially for non-minors in the program, and Republicans wanted to reduce homelessness, especially youth homelessness, without tacking on more taxpayer funds.
“We don’t see enough of these types of bills,” Linda Caldwell, a foster parent and foster child advocate, explained to the Globe. “Whenever something comes up for housing or homelessness or children, it’s fought over and delayed so much. AB 1979 checked all the boxes for both parties that did something good that didn’t require the need for additional funds.”
“We’re seeing a lot of bills that don’t serve the public need, or are costing an arm and a leg. But this bill gives needed change at no extra cost to the taxpayer since the funding is already there.”
“Plus, as a foster mom and as someone who has pushed for more foster rights and funding for years, it’s great to see that foster children who got out of the system are still being watched over and supported to give them a fair shot in life. That’s America, getting a fair shot, and we just made that more possible for these kids.”
Other lawmakers also threw in their support during the week.
“We have a clear moral obligation to ensure that our most vulnerable young people have access to housing and essential services, especially during a global pandemic,” added Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills). “I’m proud to co-author AB 1979, and applaud Assemblywoman Friedman for her outstanding leadership on this important legislation.”
Foster groups, especially those involving children, also praised the legislation and urged the signing of AB 1979.
“Too many young people in Extended Foster Care have experienced housing instability due to program barriers and a lack of affordable housing options,” said Susanna Kniffen of Children Now. “AB 1979 represents an exciting step toward addressing these issues.”
No known opposition had come out against the bill since it was introduced in January.
AB 1979 now awaits the Governor’s signature. It has been indicated that Governor Gavin Newsom will sign the bill sometime this month.