WILL LA COUNTY ACCEPT MUCH-NEEDED STATE FUNDING FOR KINSHIP CAREGIVERS?
In June, Gov. Jerry Brown allocated $30 million from the state budget for giving relative caregivers the same CalWORKS financial support as non-relative foster parents.
Counties have until October 1 to opt-in to receive the crucial funding. The LA County Department of Children and Family Services says it is considering whether to opt-in, but will make its decision by the deadline.
Giving equal funding to kinship caregivers was one of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s top recommendations for reforming a troubled DCFS.
The Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback has more on the issue and why it is so important. Here are some clips:
With the highest number of foster children in the state, Los Angeles County could see as much as $25 million in state funds go to family caregivers, according to advocates with the California Step Up coalition. They say the county’s participation in the Relative Caregiver Funding Option Program would lead to greater placement stability, better outcomes for foster children and significant cost savings to the county by avoiding more expensive placement alternatives such as group homes.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer from where we sit,” said Laura Streimer, the legal director at the Alliance for Children’s Rights. “Why not roll the dice and use it now? The majority of the $30 million allocation state budget would come to L.A. County because we have the most children who qualify for it. Why wouldn’t you take that?”
The county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is weighing whether or not to opt in. According to a statement emailed to The Chronicle of Social Change by DCFS Public Affairs Director Armand Montiel, Los Angeles County will “resolve the issue” by October 1.
“The Department supports equity for relative caregivers and is preparing a recommendation for our Board regarding this program,” Montiel wrote in an email. “At this point, the State has not finalized the methodology it will use to determine each county’s base caseload and funding level. Understanding the State’s methodology for determining the base caseload and funding is essential in making accurate projections regarding the potential county costs of this program for the first year and for outlying years.”
The clock is ticking.
Despite recent research that shows that living situations with family members translate to better educational outcomes for foster youth than congregate-care placements like group homes, most relative caregivers receive a paucity of funding that lags behind the support given to unrelated caregivers.
Because of arcane eligibility rules based on the poverty standard from 1996, more than half of all foster children living with relatives do not qualify for federal foster care benefits. For relative caregivers who aren’t eligible for federal money, this means that the only support California offers them are CalWORKs benefits. This ends up being less than half the amount of money non-relative caregivers typically get from the foster care system.
The yawning gap in funding and support has hit family caregivers particularly hard, according to advocates. The scant funding and support provided to family caregivers is seldom enough to care for children who often have specialized care needs that result from experiencing trauma or abuse.
California is “forcing families—primarily low income, single women, and a disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos—into deep poverty to keep their families together,” Kinship in Action Director Joseph Devall wrote in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change. Kinship in Action supports the rights of family caregivers in South Los Angeles.
The LA Times’ editorial board is also urging the county to opt-in to boosting funding for relatives caring for kids that would otherwise be placed with strangers or sent to group homes. Here’s how it opens:
Thousands of California children who have suffered abuse or abandonment are sent to live with strangers in foster homes. That often happens even if there are extended family members ready and willing to take them in, despite California laws requiring placement with relatives when possible, and even in the face of countless studies that show the kids do better in the long run after stays with relatives rather than strangers.
So why do we keep doing it? Because so many of those relatives, retired or with their budgets maxed out raising their own kids, need a bit of financial assistance to be able to take in their nieces and nephews, siblings or grandchildren — and because under a complicated and outdated set of state, federal and local laws and rules, they can get only a tiny fraction of the funding that non-related foster parents get. Worse yet, there is a shortage of foster parents, so the children often end up being sent to group homes, which are the most expensive option and produce the least desirable outcomes. Government foolishly requires itself to pay more to get worse results.
BILL TO REQUIRE THAT KIDS LEAVING DETENTION CENTERS ARE PROMPTLY RE-ENROLLED IN SCHOOL
Over 42,000 kids attend school in California juvenile detention facilities on average each year, yet only 20% of those re-entering their communities re-enroll in public schools within the first 30 days of their release.
Experts say these kids fall through the cracks due to broken communication between the government agencies responsible for these kids.
An important bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, AB 2276, would address this issue by ensuring kids exiting detention facilities will be immediately enrolled in school.
New America Media’s Michael Lozano has more on the bill authored by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra. Here’s a clip:
In high school, Tanisha Denard struggled to get herself to class on time. Her walks from home to John C. Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles were long, the buses were crowded and when there was space, Denard rarely had the fare. “I got passed by the bus a lot and I didn’t have money,” she recalls.
The truancy tickets piled up – Los Angeles municipal code allows schools to issue citations of up to $250 to tardy and absent students – and so Denard, now 20, whose family was unable to cover the cost, paid her debt by serving time at a county juvenile hall. When she was released, school officials informed her that reenrolling at her old public high school wasn’t an option — she would need to begin the much lengthier process of finding a new school and getting herself enrolled.
Although Denard was eventually able to navigate her way into another school, she is by far the exception. The story of young people leaving the juvenile justice system with no clear academic transition plan is a familiar one to youth advocates, despite existing laws that are meant to avoid such scenarios.
“They’re supposed to be coordinating – there are laws that talk about coordination and communication – but that’s not happening the way it needs to happen,” says Laura Faer, Education Rights Director with Public Counsel, a pro-bono law firm.
What makes AB 2276 different from current laws, says Faer, is the requirement that juvenile probation and county education departments work together to form transition policies in collaboration with local education agencies. In addition, the bill would create a statewide stakeholder group headed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Board of State Community Corrections that would study best practices and be required to report back to the state legislature.
Faer has seen plenty of past instances where court school records are not transferred from probation officials to the county office of education immediately upon a child’s release, which in turn creates a negative outcome for the student.
“A student shows up at the school and the school says, ‘you don’t have any of your documents, so you can’t come.’ Or worse, even if they are allowed to go to school, [the schools] don’t know anything about them,” says Faer. “A child [may have] already taken algebra when they were in the hall or in the camp, then they’re put in the exact same classes. Then they get disaffected and they drop out, because they keep getting shuffled and doing the same things over and over again. So that handoff, that transition, is really critical.”
LA METRO WORKS TOWARD ROBUST OVERSIGHT AFTER AUDIT REVEALED LASD MISSED POLICING GOALS
In July, an audit found that the LA County Sheriff’s Department had fallen short of Metro policing goals for reducing crime. The audit came as Metro was considering renewing a three-year contract with the LASD.
Part of the problem, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti says, is a failure to administer adequate oversight.
The mayor (who is also chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority) has proposed a motion to hire several Metro staff to keep track of contract goals, and to have the department’s inspector general audit the LASD-Metro contract every two years.
The LA Times’ Laura J. Nelson has the story. Here’s a clip:
In a motion proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the chairman of the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, board members asked for several new Metro staff members who would keep tabs on key contract benchmarks, including fare evasion, system safety and response times. The board also asked Metro’s inspector general, the internal agency watchdog, to audit the transit police contract every two years.
The audit, written by an outside firm and commissioned by Metro officials, also faulted the transit agency itself for weak oversight of the contract.
“We didn’t hit some of the most basic things that are part of the contract,” Garcetti said during a meeting at Metro’s downtown headquarters. “We have failed on the oversight.”
The push comes as officials weigh awarding a three-year security contract expected to cost about $400 million. The transit police agreement with the Sheriff’s Department expires Dec. 31.
Sheriff’s Department officials said they agree with the majority of the findings and are working to correct the issues raised in the audit.
TRANSFORMING A PRIVATE PRISON INTO A NON-PROFIT FACILITY
Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), a 20,000-member activist group, has proposed that a privately run D.C. jail be transformed into a non-profit-run jail focused on rehabilitating rather than warehousing inmates.
The jail is currently operated by the controversial private prison group, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), but its contract will end in 2017.
The Huffington Post’s Saki Knafo has more on the unique idea. Here’s a clip:
Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, or CURE, a prison reform group comprised mainly of former inmates, wants to convert a private jail in D.C. into what they say would be the first nonprofit lockup in the country, if not the world. At this point, the idea is just that — an idea. The group, which claims some 20,000 members throughout the country, convened its first meeting about the proposal on Friday at D.C.’s Harrington Hotel, but has yet to figure out any of the logistics of what they admit would be a complicated, even quixotic effort.
Charlie Sullivan, the executive director of CURE, acknowledged that the idea might make him sound like a knight “chasing after one of those windmills.” Still, he argues that his idealism may be exactly what is needed.
“What both the private and government-run prisons are doing is just holding people,” said Sullivan. “They’re playing defense; we need to play offense. We need to give people an opportunity to change their lives.”
The group has set its sights on the Correctional Treatment Facility, one of the city’s two jails. For nearly two decades, the facility has been run by the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit, private prison company based in Nashville, Tennessee. Over the last few years, criticisms of such companies have grown louder, with advocates for inmates saying that private prisons are incentivized to lobby for harsh laws that keep beds filled while skimping on rehabilitation services, training programs for corrections officers, and anything else that could cut into their profit margins.