In the revised May budget, Gov. Jerry Brown proposes funding a program to help foster youth who are attending community college. But he does not call for increasing funds to a service that helps K-12 students be successful in school, as foster youth advocates had hoped.
The governor wants to fully fund a supplemental component for foster students of the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services program, which
provides state funds for low-income community college students. Foster youth and former foster youth under the age of 26 could receive these services even if they took only nine units a semester instead of the 12 units required under Extended Opportunity Programs and Services.
Although advocates for foster youth say they are excited that the governor is funding the new program for community college students, they are disappointed that he did not increase funds to expand Foster Youth Services, a program that provides counseling, tutoring and other support for K-12 students.
The supplemental funding could be used to provide academic, career and mental health counseling; to monitor academic progress; and to give tutoring and mentoring support. Funds could also be used to teach independent living skills and for housing assistance, child care, transportation, books and supplies.
Although advocates for foster youth say they are excited that the governor is funding the new program, they are disappointed that he did not increase funds to expand Foster Youth Services, a program that provides counseling, tutoring and other support for K-12 students. Currently only foster students living with non-relatives have access to the services, even though an estimated third to more than half of foster youth live with relatives. Those relatives, often grandparents, are typically low-income and cannot afford the counseling and tutoring the foster children need, advocates say.
Advocates are calling for an increase of $20 million to $30 million a year so the services would be available to all foster youth. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, is proposing that extension of services in Assembly Bill 854. Foster Youth Services currently gets $15 million each year.
“Access to those services is critical,” said Marcus McKinney, senior assistant to Weber, when the bill was being introduced. “We need to value relatives and get them a reasonable amount of resources.”
Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, director of the advocacy group FosterEd in California, said the governor’s proposal for community colleges should lead to more students matriculating into college and transferring to four-year universities. But by not including additional funds to make Foster Youth Services inclusive, the governor is not acknowledging the key role played by the program in helping districts support foster students so they can be ready for college, she said.
Under the Local Control Funding Formula, districts are expected to develop specific proposals to help their foster students succeed in school. But many districts lack the expertise to deal with this population of students, who have suffered a
buse and neglect and often have been shuffled from home to home and school to school. Studies have shown that foster students have poor academic outcomes and are the least likely subgroup of students to graduate from high school. They also have low college completion rates.
The program supported by the governor’s proposed budget is aimed at improving those completion rates. College districts have to apply to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors for the supplemental funds. Up to 10 community college districts, out of 72 districts in the state, can set up the supplemental fund, with priority being given to districts with the highest number of eligible students. Colleges that receive funds must submit a biennial report describing their efforts to serve foster students.
Each year, more than 4,000 foster youth are emancipated or “age out” of the foster care system when they turn 18. Under a new law that took effect last year, foster youth can continue in the system up to age 21 if they meet certain conditions. One of those conditions is being enrolled in a postsecondary or vocational education institution.
If approved in the final budget, the allocation would fulfill the promise of Senate Bill 1023, which established the supplemental component. The bill, authored by Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale, was passed by the Legislature last year and signed into law in September.
On Wednesday, a Senate budget subcommittee voted unanimously to approve funding the program. The committee amended the governor’s budget bill language to ensure that up to $15 million of the Community College Student Equity funds be used to support foster youth and former foster youth.
The budget subcommittee “added teeth” to the revised May budget proposal, said Tim Morrison, senior policy associate with the advocacy group Children Now. “They went above and beyond the governor’s language,” he said.