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State Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) has introduced Senate Bill 219 (SB 219), legislation that will create a pilot program for foster youth to receive grants for extracurricular and enrichment activities.

“California ranks 36th in the nation among states in overall child well-being. When one looks at overall well-being of foster youth, the stats are even bleaker,” Wilk said. “One-third of all foster youth never finish high school or get a GED. Giving these kids every opportunity to succeed was the intent behind this bill.”

Senate Bill 219 seeks to make foster youth eligible to receive up to $500 dollars for enrichment and extracurricular activities. This would allow them to engage in such activities as sports, STEM programs, graduations activities, arts, music, dance, and theater.

Jay Duke, executive director of the Antelope Valley Boys and Girls Club shared the following: “Foster Youth are one of the most at-risk youth populations, often struggling with behavior, academic, and self-esteem issues. At the Club, we have seen the positive impact that structured after-school activities can have on foster youth. These extracurricular programs help give youth a coping mechanism, a sense of belonging, and depending up the activity, something more to strive for.”

This year the Youth Law Center released a study that found participation in such activities is linked to young people building resilience, improving self-efficacy, and even counteracting the harmful effects of trauma. Not only will these activities enhance the lives of foster youth, but it will also provide them with a robust resume when applying for secondary education as well as working to close the achievement gap for students in foster care.

“Extracurricular and enrichment activities provide such a benefit to foster youth that in 2001 the legislature added the engagement in those activities to what is considered the Bill of Rights for all foster youth,” Wilk added. “It’s clear our California foster youth needs to be a priority this year.”