Family wins, every time
In 2012, California signed Assembly Bill 12 (AB 12) to allow youth in foster care an opportunity to extend services until the age of 21. This bill was designed to respond to the very real need of young people who aged out of foster care who had no family, no support, and limited opportunities to excel in their formative years. AB 12 has its benefits: Continued county support, a monthly stipend, and three extra years to fully transition into independent adulthood. Youth in foster care only have access to this service if they have not found legal permanency—adoption or guardianship—before the age of 16.
In Destination Family, we are tasked with the duty of explaining the ins and outs of legal permanency in relation to AB12. Due to the ages where youth qualify for AB12, this often results in contrasting the two: Would you like a monthly stipend, or a long-term, permanent family? In our work, we are finding that a monthly stipend has become more and more appealing to our youth. How could it not? $800 a month is more money than many of them have ever seen, yet we know that still barely covers the basics.
Moreover, these choices are often put on children who are as young as 10 years old. How can we expect a child who lacks any sense of emotional stability to be capable of imagining what will be most sensible for them several years down the road?
I don’t want to discredit AB 12 and the kids that it has helped—there are so many young people who age out of foster care with nothing. Being given the extra time and support does allow some to go on and live fruitful lives. But, more often than not, we see kids reaching their 21st birthday just as lost in the world as they were three years prior.
In Destination Family, we believe that permanent, loving families will provide our children and youth with the kind of unconditional support that results in real change and better opportunities. For the six youth who have found permanency through Destination Family since this January, they’ll always know where they can go for holidays and spring breaks. With a family, they will always have someone to lean on, even after they turn 21.
Written by Natalia Capozziello,
Youth Permanency Worker with Destination Family