HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS POTENTIALLY ELIGIBLE FOR PROP. 47 STILL NEED TO SUBMIT REQUESTS—COUNTY BOOSTS OUTREACH EFFORTS AS DEADLINE LOOMS
On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by County CEO Sachi Hamai to allocate $6.6 million from the county’s budget to help approximately 500,000 people with felonies that qualify for reduction to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. The vote was 4-1 with Supe. Michael Antonovich dissenting.
The money will go toward services and outreach so that as many people as possible take advantage of the legal relief Prop. 47 offers before the law’s November 2017 deadline. (There’s also a bill working its way through state legislature that would extend the deadline, if there were good cause to do so.)
The Public Defender’s Office will kick off the outreach by mailing letters to potentially eligible people. “County departments, community-based organizations, advocates, and interested public and private agencies will also receive posters and flyers to advertise the opportunity for Prop 47 legal relief and services,” Hamai’s letter reads. And if a 10% response rate is not achieved, “then the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) will insert Prop 47 flyers into their regular correspondence to clients and advertisements will be placed on public transportation routes.”
As of April, the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender’s Office had received over 54,000 Prop. 47 petitions, and filed over 31,000 petitions. This doesn’t include applications filed by private attorneys, but is certainly a far cry from the estimated 500,000 eligible people who still haven’t submitted requests. Part of the money will be used to add paralegals to the Public Defender and District Attorney’s offices to help with the anticipated increase in workload.
The funds will also be used to connect Prop. 47ers with mental health and substance abuse services, medical care, housing, and employment resources from community-based businesses and organizations.
NOTE: The Supes passed a separate motion that would task the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Probation, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Office of Diversion and Re-Entry, and other government entities and external organizations to research ways to reduce recidivism, including probation for misdemeanor offenders. We’ll have more on the motion later this week.
POTENTIAL PITFALLS FOR CALIFORNIA’S UPCOMING GROUP HOME AND CHILD-PLACEMENT REFORM PLAN
In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 403, a bill that will overhaul counties’ child welfare placement systems by eliminating traditional group homes, and by focusing on long-term placements with foster families, as part of a larger effort called the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). The changes are slated to go into effect by January 2017, and so far, California’s not ready for the switch.
At that time, the current controversial group home model will be thrown out in favor of short-term residential treatment centers (STRTCs) which will have to meet much higher standards of care than today’s group homes. Kids placed in the STRTCs will stay a maximum of six months while receiving specialized therapeutic treatment for mental health and other needs.
But what will happen to LA County’s high-needs foster children when the long-term group homes vanish and there are not enough foster families to go around? (USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism students Sara Tiano & Brittany Reid explored the issue in a story for WitnessLA.)
Writing for the Chronicle of Social Change, human services veteran and founder of the Family Care Network, Jim Roberts, reports that CCR was not designed specifically to improve the lives of children in the welfare system…it was designed to save California money. And unfortunately, without a major (and unlikely) boost to currently depleted foster parent ranks, the plan may be doomed before it even begins. Part of the problem, says Roberts, is that the state isn’t substantially increasing payments to foster families and foster family agencies, which would help with recruitment.
Roberts also points out that, so far, the state has been unwilling to pay foster parents an appropriate amount to take care of teenagers and hard-to-place high-needs, challenging foster kids who are extremely hard to place (and who often end up in group homes). Here’s a clip:
For the past couple of years, the state has been doling out more money to the counties to improve resource family retention and recruitment, but I can guarantee you, these are not the families who will be taking the youth coming out of group homes, many of which have significant behavioral, mental and emotional problems. The majority of these kids went into residential treatment because they needed it, not because there was a lack of placement options elsewhere.
Of equal concern is the fact that the state is not willing to appropriately pay foster parents what it takes to serve high-needs, challenging foster youth. The “new” CCR rates include, at best, a paltry rate increase, but actually decrease some rates to foster parents who provide certain levels of care, including those who care for teenagers. We should be doubling or tripling the amount paid to our foster parents who are working with challenging youth 24/7.
My agency, the Family Care Network, has been successful in working with the county to cobble together multiple funding sources in order to pay foster parents one of, if not the, highest rate in the state. But it is still not enough, nor has it helped much in our recruitment efforts.
One ray of hope in the resource family reimbursement debacle is therapeutic foster care (TFC). Yes, TFC will provide additional payment to “therapeutic foster parents” working with an FFA. But they must meet stringent vetting and training requirements, they must participate in the clinical process and complete required daily documentation, and the foster youth must meet “medical necessity” in order to qualify for mental health services. Plus, the FFA must be a qualified specialty mental health services provider with a contract to receive reimbursement. The long and short of this is that it will benefit a handful of foster parents at best, providing that you can find these families.
Another demonstration of the state’s lack of insight concerns probation youth within the juvenile justice system. These kids are one of the higher consumers of group home services and the plan is to move many of them into the community. Again, the “new” rate structure does not provide any accommodation for serving this high-risk, offender population. Most of these youth do not “meet medical necessity” and would not qualify the foster parent to receive the TFC rate augmentation. And I rather doubt there will be many – if any – foster families willing to take in a juvenile offender without substantial reimbursement and the necessary intensive services and supports.
A 13-YEAR-OLD WITH LEUKEMIA TO BECOME DEPUTY FOR A DAY, THANKS TO A CARING DEPUTY AND HER COWORKERS AT THE LASD INDUSTRY STATION
Today (Wednesday), Julian Cardenas, a 13-year-old with leukemia, will become an honorary deputy for a day at Industry Sheriff’s Station.
When Deputy Marianne Oliver responded to a call to help Julian back in May, she connected with the boy, who she learned was struggling with the fact that he could not play with his peers outside, or regularly attend school while undergoing treatment. Oliver, who felt she needed to do something beyond the standard call for service, shared Julian’s story with her fellow deputies, who decided to surprise Julian by making him honorary deputy at their station.
Today, Oliver will pick Julian up in an LASD Camaro show car, and take him to the station, where we will be sworn in, receive a tour of the station, train in the weapons training simulator, and visit the Special Enforcement Bureau Special Weapons Team, K-9 and Aero Bureau deputies. Oliver and her coworkers will also present Julian with a bunch of challenge coins and souvenirs from different LASD departments.
The Industry Station will also host a barbecue fundraiser to help Julian and his family.
ANOTHER HONORARY DEPUTY: TWELVE-YEAR OLD BOYLE HEIGHTS BOY FIGHTING LEUKEMIA
Upon hearing the story of Alfonso Hoffman—a 12-year-old in Boyle Heights who is fighting leukemia, and who dreams of one day becoming a K9 officer, the LASD’s Transit Policing Division swore Alfonso in as an honorary deputy for a day. Alfonso was given a tactical vest, rode in a armored truck, and trained with the department’s explosives detection dogs.
Alfonso, who faces three years of chemotherapy treatment, thanked the transit deputies officers with tears in his eyes. “It’s been an honor,” Alfonso said.
(We also recommend heading over to ABC7, where you can watch a video of Alfonso being sworn in.)