It is going to be tempting for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger not to sign AB 12, the bill now sitting on his desk that will extend the age limit for a kid to remain in the foster care system from 18 to 21.
It’s a good bill, no one disputes that. But it will cost money. And in this dreadful budget season no California politician wants to be seen as spending extra taxpayer money on anything, at all, ever, if he or she can help it.
Of course, everybody who does the numbers points out that it will cost more, in the long run, if we don’t extend help to foster kids. (High incidence of homelessness, joblessness—and so on.)
Now in an op ed for the Daily News, award-winning journalist-turned-foster-care advocate, Daniel Hempel asks the governor—and the rest of us—to think about all the positive societal and fiscal benefits that can accrue if California does enact AB 12.
Here’s how Hempel’s essay opens:
There Shalita O’Neale sits, big belly, 10 days away from her first child. She is smiling, brimming under the hum of overcooled air being pumped through the vents of an old building in East Baltimore.
On the sill of a window, which separates the world she has built in her executive director’s office from the rough outside, sits a photo. It is of her, then 19, standing next to Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state.
O’Neale was a member of the first class of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Foster Youth Intern program, which has in the years since placed dozens of former and current foster youth in the offices of members of Congress. It was one of myriad connections she made after her 18th birthday.
Unlike most states across the country and in our home state of California, Maryland didn’t cut O’Neale off at age 18 simply because she was a foster youth, a fiscal burden rather than human being. Instead, the state continued to subsidize her housing and waived her school tuition.
“I started meeting people in college, making connections,” she says. “If I was out on my own, I couldn’t have done that.”
And what that has done for her individually and for thousandssof other foster youths in states like Maryland, Illinois and New York is at the crucible of the decision Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger now weighs. California is poised to tap into federal funds to extend foster care to the 4,500 youths who age out of the system every year at 18 to age 21 The bill, AB 12, which would accomplish this, hurtled through the state Sssembly and Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature by the end of the month.
If the governor does indeed sign AB 12 it would mean that one-eighth of the nation’s foster youths – 65,000 – would, in one fell swoop, be offered the same chance that O’Neale has built a life on. .
Read the rest.
Photo by Frederic Larson / The Chronicle
AND WHILE HE’S GOT THE SIGNING PEN OUT…
The governor should sign AB 1602 and SB 900–the health care-related bills that Anthem and others are fighting mightily to kill.
ON A TANGENTIALLY RELATED TOPIC—A FEDERAL APPEALS COURT RULED TUESDAY THAT FLORIDA’S GAY ADOPTION BAN IS INDEED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Here’s your Thursday moment of sanity.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld upheld a 2008 ruling by a Miami-Dade judge, who found “no rational basis” for the 3-decade ban when she okayed the adoption of two young brothers by a gay couple.
TERESA LEWIS EXECUTION TO GO AHEAD
On a decidedly less cheery note, the Virginia execution of Teresa Lewis is slated to take place Thursday night, despite thousands who want to know why the state feels it needs to kill Lewis, while the guys who actually committed the murders are serving life sentences.
Interestingly, when SCOTUS voted not to grant a stay to Lewis, the only two justices who voted in favor of the stay were Sotomayor and Ginzberg—both women. Elena Kagan, however, broke gender ranks and voted against. (Not that it means anything. It’s simply intriguing to note, as Doug Berman points out.)