Report: Calif. Makes Progress Helping Foster Youth

California's share of Latino foster children has risen from 33 percent to 50 percent in the past five years, which may indicate more awareness of social services among that demographic group. Photo Credit: Mitchell Findley/Voices Youth Center

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s teenage foster youth are doing better than the national average in several important ways, according to a new report.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation research found 84 percent of California young people who leave the foster care system at age 21 have their high school diploma – a rate 8 percent higher than the national average. California foster kids also have a better record for finding jobs and avoiding homelessness.

Amber Twitchell, program director with the Voices Youth Center, said she credits a policy change in recent years, since the state stopped relying on group homes.

“So, really moving away from the traditional, kind of ‘old school’ model – where we would just put kids in houses together and you know, have somebody check on them – to really focusing on getting kids into families, wherever we can,” Twitchell said. “That’s really what the continuum of care is all about.”

The numbers are not all rosy, however. The report found that 49 percent of California’s foster children have had placements in three or more homes, which is close to the national average of 51 percent. Overall, about 70,000 kids in the Golden State are in foster care.

Leslie Gross, director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, said there’s a huge need out there for foster families willing to make a permanent connection with a teenager.

“Young people really need supportive adults to rely on, to make difficult decisions that happen in just everyday life, and help them get on a path to financial and emotional stability,” Gross said.

The report said California could do more to help older foster children transition to adulthood, as only 1 percent get room-and-board assistance, only 11 percent get financial assistance for education, and 20 percent participate in job-training programs.