New CA law hopes to prevent homelessness among youth in foster care – NBC 7 San Diego

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As a child transitions into adulthood, making sure they have a safe place to live is a priority. However, reports indicate that up to a third of young adults aging outside of California’s foster care system are homeless. A new law hopes to improve these statistics.

This is a question that touches closely for Sarah Pauter. Pauter entered the San Diego County foster care system when she was just 18 months old. She said her parents were addicted to drugs and that she spent her entire childhood separated from her siblings and moved from foster families to group homes and failed reunification with his parents. She emancipated herself after graduating from high school at the age of 18.

Throughout her eventful childhood, Pauter’s upbringing kept her focused. She described her transition to adulthood as a whirlwind and said she was not fully prepared for the independence that followed.

“I kind of remember walking out of foster care as I was graduating from high school, going through that stage, shaking hands with the supervisory board, receiving $ 500 for graduating from school. secondary and making me say, “Good luck. “”

Pauter was alone. She had a pending San Diego State University scholarship, but her student benefits did not start right away, leaving her homeless.

“So while I was this very motivated and motivated young lady with a full scholarship to go to college, I had nowhere to live,” she said.

Pauter leaned on friends and moved several times that summer, wherever a sofa was available. She does not recall anyone discussing a plan for where she would live or anyone suggesting that she start applying for temporary accommodation.

Pauter said she was able to get on a waiting list for state-sponsored housing that had space available, but said the housing required residents to take an orientation that didn’t was not regularly offered.

“So I had to stay on that waiting list for a program that had availability and in the meantime I sleep on my best friend’s couch, but I couldn’t get in. [the housing] until I completed that mandatory orientation that they weren’t offering for a month or two, ”she said.

Ed Howard, Senior Counsel for The Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego Law School said hundreds of young adults who are no longer in foster care in California find themselves homeless each year, leaving them vulnerable to things like sexual abuse, l exploitation, violence, disease and unemployment.

“Hundreds of children of around 4,000 who drop out of the reception system each year after their last hearing are given a large bag to store their belongings, are taken to a homeless shelter and asked to fend for themselves. alone, ”he said. .

Howard explained that this is because there is no legal obligation to ensure that young adults leaving the foster home have a housing plan.

“There was nothing in state law that required a judge to be directly informed whether or not the foster child was going to have a safe place to sleep the next day or two,” he said. Howard said.

But on January 2, 2022, the law changes. The Co-sponsored Children’s Advocacy Institute AB-546, new legislation from Assembly member Brian Maienschein (D-77) will require counties to report a youth’s housing plan in foster care to a judge before leaving the system. The bill was passed by Governor Gavin Newsom without opposition.

In a statement, Sarah Sweeney, spokesperson for the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, said: Professional services and financial aid. In addition, support services provided include case management, monthly in-person visits, development of specific case plans, and referrals to community organizations for hands-on workshops and trainings.

The new law does not require housing to be provided, but advocates like Pauter, who then set up his own nonprofit, Phenomenal families, hope that increased accountability will reduce the number of young adults ending up on the streets. “Because now we’re going to have a judge who can look and see very clearly what this young person’s housing plan is,” Pauter said.

Helping prevent homelessness among this vulnerable group of young adults is essential for Pauter, and she said if this law had been in place when she emancipated herself from the system, she likely would not have experienced a lack of housing for several months.

“I probably could have completed this orientation for this housing program while I was still in foster care and I would have been in an apartment and ready and standing when school started,” she said. declared.


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