Bill Watch Crossover Youth Foster Care

$4 Million in CA Budget to Decriminalize Foster Youth in Group Homes

Mary Graham Childrens-Center, San Joaquin County, CA
Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

The new 2018-2019 state budget California lawmakers sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk includes a pot of $4 million allocated for protecting foster youth in shelters from unnecessary arrests and criminalization.

In 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Karen de Sá, Joaquin Palomino and Cynthia Dizikes revealed that law enforcement agencies across California arrest the abused and neglected foster children housed in the state’s 10 short-term emergency shelters at staggeringly high rates. The reporters found that when the kids housed in California’s 10 shelters act out, run away, and otherwise behave like children suffering from the effects of trauma, shelter staff often resort to calling the police.

Between 2015 and 2016, the staff at the 10 shelters called local law enforcement agencies 14,000 times regarding the kids in their care. During the same period, children entered various county juvenile halls nearly 200 times.

Despite the fact that shelter staff members undergo specialized training on how to care for traumatized children, foster kids in these shelters are commonly arrested for acts like kicking, shoving, or biting their caregivers.

The problem is not unique to the emergency shelters, however.

It’s a Group Home Problem

In 2016, group home administrators made 6,217 non-mandated calls statewide for youth behavior. Approximately 60% were for behavior that was not aggressive. From those non-mandated calls, cops issued 435 citations to foster youth, arrested or detained 527 kids, and booked approximately 319 youth into juvenile hall.

In Los Angeles, St. Anne’s Maternity Home—which houses girls in LA’s foster care system who are pregnant or who have children under three—reportedly made a staggering 904 calls to the cops in 2016 about their charges, kids who are, by definition, already dealing with pasts of abuse and/or neglect.

At a recent meeting of LA County’s Commission for Children and Families, the commissioners asked various county officials to show up to discuss why so many of the county’s foster care facilities were calling the police so often on the kids they were charged with helping.

State lawmakers aim to address the issue through a $4 million budget allocation that will go toward training law enforcement and group home staff, and will fund nonprofit community groups that provide trauma-informed services to the state’s foster youth.

A related bill from Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), AB 2605, would impose a three-year ban on arrests in foster care facilities for minor offenses that are not mandated law enforcement calls.

“Having served in law enforcement, I have seen how young people get trapped in the juvenile justice system because of minor incidents charged against them,” Gipson said. “Group homes are given extra resources to manage behavioral problems in their facilities and should absolutely be using them to provide appropriate care. The first response to a child poking a caregiver with a candy cane, for example, should never be a call to law enforcement.”

The bill, which is sponsored by the Youth Law Center, also requires group homes to update their protocols to include rules regarding the types of incidents that are and are not appropriate for law enforcement to handle. “Contacting law enforcement shall only be used as a last resort once all other deescalation and intervention techniques have been exhausted and only upon approval of a staff supervisor,” according to the AB 2605.

Gipson is also issuing a three-year budget proposal that would give more than $7.5 million per year for three years to community organizations based in counties with foster care facilities making 100 or more calls to police every year, as well as counties that have a high number of foster kids being funnelled into the juvenile justice system. These community organizations would provide de-escalation training to group home staff and police, and provide kids in group homes with college prep, art, music, and sports programs, as well as mental health and other needed services.

“These youth have faced significant trauma in their lifetimes and deserve better than to be sent to juvenile hall as a time out,” said Gipson.

Image: Mary Graham Children’s Shelter, where staff phoned the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department 5,049 times between 2015 and 2016 to deal with kids in their care, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s investigation.


  • C: I like you I always have. But, how many Group Homes have you been to? I have been to over 50 homes and spent countless hours with these kids. If you don’t hold the young man(and it’s usually a male)accountable how does not removing him from the home help him to NOT become a fine crazy left wing lunatic? Let’s try a real life example of a light weight problem as it compares to other far worst issues. A young boy works hard, summer job I got him and he buys a bike that he has wanted for some time. Please note that his last Foster home his gifted bike turned up missing which par for the course. I bought a helmet, a huge lock and chain for his new bike. I know you’re asking why should I buy a lock as all these kids are just misguided? The next morning another boy broke the lock and stole the bike. The thief sold the bike for 40 dollars(it was worth 80) and now lives in another group home. The boy who worked for the bike is completely distraught and in tears. Not to mentioned quite angry and I’m putting it mildly. The thief laughed.

    Before I tell how CPS answered this issue I would be interested in your response on how to resolve this matter.


  • Um, you’re dealing in reality, citing stuff that actually happened, people who really got hurt ( victims) , Witness la isn’t really into that kind of stuff.

  • So, this kid who stole his bike and is obviously dealing with mental health issues such as those that occur due to parental/ child separation and all the reasons for the separation should be subjected to jail and a record over the 80 dollar bike? How about doing what you may do if the kid was yours. Try deducting from his allowance until the debt is paid. As far as the victim, the foster home should explain to the child that the debt will be repaid by the culprit. That is what civilized societies do.

  • Ha Ha Ha!!! You don’t know Jack about abused kids and what they go through. What allowance are you talking about? So, let’s find out what the system did in this case.
    1. The police were called for the bike theft and that we have a missing kid. Of course we should call and report the kids missing or are we afraid this too might make the bike theft a hardened criminal? BTW: The police never investigated the theft or the missing kid. Kid has to be missing for a week.
    2. The bike thief tried to sell the bike in parts on Ebay. I found this out by looking on Ebay. I notified the bike thief’s case worker and approved that I got and get the bike and return it. However, the bike thief sold all the parts except the frame. And he said he spent the money on Grand Theft Auto(violent video game) and marijuana. BTW In my 15 years of dealing with these kids the number abused drug is marijuana not alcohol. Of course at the next court hearing the judge ordered that the bike thief write and apology and make restitution. The bike thief wrote the letter but never made restitution. Father is in prison for double murder and no one knows where the mother is. Should we call the police?
    3. Our victim looked for the bike thief in order to get revenge. Should we call the police? I got the kid another bike. Our victim wasn’t satisfied and made numerous threats. Should we call the police?
    4. Both the bike thief and victim had additional mental evaluations and prescribed additional ANTI-DEPRESSANTS. Has anyone ever been cured from depression by taking anti-depressants, especially children? Why should the victim be re-evaluated? Never did find out.
    5. The bike thief ran away again but this time on foot. 13 times the bike thief has run away. Once again the police must be called for missing children.
    6. The victim’s father has never been in the boy’s life and has refused to help or pay to help. Victim’s mother is a prostitute and does porno when she can get the work. The number one problem with young boys is the proliferation of porno and what it does to their heads! Should we call the police?
    7. The bike thief was arrested for armed robbery. The victim committed such acts of violence that he sits in a maximum security facility. The police were called in both cases.
    I think the cops were called too late!!

    Why don’t these fake politicians ever bang on the doors of foster homes and demand to see what is going on? Because if they see the crap they might have to do their jobs!

    And all this is the fault of the police???

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