SF nabs $3 million in foster care funding

The City will get $3 million to support foster care youthS ages 18-21 under legislation approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

AB 12, sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, releases $37 million statewide to continue paying for foster care kids until they are 21 as long as they are working or going to school. Currently, foster care kids are emancipated at the age of 18, yet they may not have acquired the skills to live independently and thrive, lawmakers argue.

San Francisco emancipates as many as 175 18-year-olds in Foster care every year. Of that, 25 percent do not have solid plans to go to college or get a full time jobs, said Trent Rhorer, director of the San Francisco Human Services Agency.

Many of those kids end up couch surfing, moving back to their birth parents’ home or perhaps even living on the streets.

But this additional money will buy these kids some extra time to transition into stable housing and jobs, Rhorer said.

“This money is crucial,” Rhorer said. “The child has grown up in foster care without any parents so they might have gone from home to home, changed schools and at 18 to say ‘OK you are on your own, good luck’ I would argue is unconscionable.”

San Francisco has lobbied to get these benefits extended for foster care youths for years. The City receives more than $36 million in cash assistance annually from the state to care for more than 1,300 foster youths citywide. Nationwide, the numbers are stark. More than half the foster youths who are emancipated at age 18 become homeless or end up in county jails, said John Burton, chair of the John Burton Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to keep kids from becoming homeless.

Burton, a former California senator, said now that this legislation is in place, it is up to local communities to step in and help young adults in foster care find jobs, homes and education opportunities.

“Foster kids are terminated from the relationship with their foster parents and they are out in the street at 18 with nowhere to go and little guidance,” Burton said. “There is a big difference in maturity between 18 and 21.”

San Francisco is already working with nonprofit groups to build four different housing developments for transitional youth, targeting both foster kids who are “aged out” of the system and homeless youths.

In the planning process now is the Edward II Inn in the Marina District. That housing development would convert a bed and breakfast into housing with 24 units for transitional youths with supportive services on site, said Doug Shoemaker, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s housing adviser.

This legislation will provide emancipated foster youths with money to pay rent for transitional housing where they would have likely lived for free, officials said.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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