It is even more important for our community because African-American children represent 45 percent of the children in foster care in California. They are four times more likely than white children to be placed in the child welfare system due to abuse and neglect.
For the past several years, the Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care has been grappling with critical issues that impact the quality of life of California’s foster youth. But every year we are faced with challenges and this year isn’t different. The state is currently in a budget crisis that we have never seen before. People are losing their homes, their jobs and their optimism for the future.
The state’s foster care system will be directly impacted by this current fiscal environment. With a $15 billion deficit, largely spurred by the economic recession and the mortgage meltdown, the Governor’s revised budget includes deep cuts to foster care as well as cuts that result in teachers receiving layoff notices, cuts to people who depend on SSI and cuts to the In Home Supportive Services Program, which helps seniors stay independent and out of nursing homes.
As the budget goes, so does the funding for programs that help the most vulnerable communities including foster youth and seniors. Every year, we have to be inventive as we look for funding especially to address the issues in California’s Foster Care System, which is the largest in the country. And this year it has put our efforts in a vulnerable position as we try to continue to address numerous disparity gaps.
The Governor’s budget revise calls for a loss of $264 million from foster care and child welfare services, which includes cuts to all caregivers, cuts in clothing allowance, loss of social worker time, fewer services to families, and less child abuse prevention. This would be a serious blow to the gains we were able to make over the last several years.
But as a community, we know that the tough time is not the time to be complacent. It’s the time when we have to fight harder to make things happen; it’s the time to be innovative; its time to believe in change.
And this is the time when we will need everyone to participate in the process in order to make sure we continue to move our agenda forward. California’s foster youth needs our help to make sure they do not become our state’s forgotten children. It will take the commitment from all of us to make sure this does not occur.
We are in a critical time in California and we are looking for ways to jump-start our economy. The budget situation will not go away and it is projected that we will be in the same position next year. It will take a collaborative effort as well as a balanced approach to effectively address the situation. But there will be many compromises that will be made by everyone.
Facing these challenges every year, it is evident that there is a need to find a stable funding stream. The welfare of foster youth should not be part of our state’s yearly budget battles. To affect real change, it will take a ballot initiative like Proposition 63, which provided funding to restore and improve the mental health care system in California.
We have more than 75,000 children in Californian’s foster care system. California is the parent of these youth and they are our responsibility to make sure that they have every opportunity to become productive citizens. A ballot initiative will provide us with the constant flow of funds necessary to bring about change to address the systemic problems that plague the Foster Care System.
However, I will not be able to make this happen without your support. This effort will help improve the lives of many of children in the system that end up homeless or in the criminal justice system after they leave the System that is suppose to prepare them for their future. These are the youth that we lose through the holes of the system while we are debating what has to be cut to accommodate the budget shortfall. This is a broken system that for far too long has guided our youth in the wrong direction.
There are many success stories and many successful programs throughout the state including SHEILDS for Families in Compton. These should be the norm and not the exception. We can make this a reality by ensuring we have plug up the holes with adequate funding.