CA Governor Signs Law Aimed at Improving Educational Prospects for Foster Youth
A new bill, AB 2060, that strengthens current California law on the appointment of educational representatives for foster youth was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Aug. 17 and will go into effect Jan. 1. The bill, supported by NCYL, was authored and introduced by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla and sponsored by Public Counsel’s Children’s Rights Project.
Existing law authorizes the court to limit the right of a parent to make educational decisions for a dependent child or ward of the court under certain circumstances, and to temporarily appoint another responsible adult to serve as the child’s educational representative. AB 2060 requires the court, if it limits a parent’s educational rights, to determine whether there is a responsible adult who is a relative, nonrelative extended family member, or other adult known to the child who is available and willing to serve before appointing an educational representative or surrogate who is not known to the child.
In addition, AB 2060 requires that the appointed educational representative or surrogate meet with the child; investigate the child’s educational needs and determine whether those needs are being met; and, before each review hearing, provide information and recommendations to the child’s social worker, make written recommendations to the court, or attend the court hearing to participate in those sessions “that concern the child’s education.”
Research has found that parental involvement strongly correlates with children’s academic performance. Students with actively engaged parents have higher test scores, better attendance, improved behavior at home and at school, better social skills, and greater ability to adapt to the classroom environment.
Foster children often do not have an adult in their lives consistently and actively supporting their education. As a result, many foster youth suffer from delayed enrollment, are funneled into lower-quality schools and remedial classes, and fail to access resources such as tutors or summer school programs. This contributes to the significant gap in academic achievement between foster children and other youth. AB 2060 aims to ensure that foster youth have educational representatives who are actively involved in their education and that, whenever possible, that representative is someone with whom the child has an existing relationship.
CA Foster Youth Education Program Preserved
The campaign to preserve California’s Foster Youth Services (FYS) Program, led by NCYL and Children Now, was successful! Gov. Jerry Brown’s recently enacted budget left intact the approximately $15 million in funding for the program, which benefits more than 55,000 foster youth.
The program, created because foster children suffer tragically poor educational outcomes, has been credited with:
- Reducing the number of foster youth expelled from school
- Increasing school attendance rates
- Reducing incidents of pupil discipline problems
- Increasing academic achievement through a program of intensive tutoring to more than 9,000 foster youth
Under Gov. Brown’s original proposal, the FYS program was to be eliminated and the funds redistributed to the state’s school districts. Each district would have been free to spend the funds as it saw fit, without having to necessarily focus the funding on foster children or be accountable for their educational outcomes. Currently, the vast majority of school districts do not have the infrastructure to identify foster children in their schools, making it extremely difficult for districts to provide foster children the specialized services they need.
The FYS program, coordinated by county education departments, identifies foster youth in schools, tracks their progress, and ensures they are receiving the necessary support and services.
NCYL and Children Now led a broad coalition of more than 120 organizations from throughout the state in successfully preserving the program.