15-year-old Not Too Old for a Forever Family

By: Amy Hadley

It’s hard enough trying to figure yourself out when you’re a teenager, much less wondering if you’ll ever belong to a family.

Fifteen-year-old Jonathan is easy-going and focused on settling in as best he can. As an eighth grader, Jonathan is trying really hard to just live a normal life.

“The only things I think about are what’s happening at home, at school. That’s all I think about. I don’t think about my brothers or my sisters. I don’t think about foster care,” he said.

Like most boys, Jonathan likes to hang out with friends and play football. He’s been in foster care for almost four years, and said his first year was really hard. He acted out and fought with other kids.

“I got split up with my family and got put in foster care and I didn’t want to be in foster care,” he said.

Jonathan has been in his newest foster home for 11 months. His goal is to “stay there for a long time.” He said moving around is the hardest part of foster care.

“You have to start over at school, start making new friends, I don’t really like that. So I just like staying in one place,” he said.

But Jonathan thinks getting adopted would be the best thing for him. While he’s ready to consider a forever family, he knows it might be hard to get close to someone again.

“Might take a while or something because I’ve been in so many different homes and so many different families that I’m not used to that,” he said.

At 15, Jonathan is growing into a young adult. But approaching adulthood doesn’t mean this teen is past the age of needing a family.

From the News 8 Austin Website

A Transition into Adulthood

THE AVERAGE parent in California doesn’t expect his or her child to achieve full adulthood — in the form of complete self-sufficiency — at the age of 18. In fact, it’s not until the age of 26 that this average child is able to get by without leaning on mom and dad at least a little bit — whether it’s a place to live, given California’s astronomical housing prices, help with college tuition or maybe the used car that gets her back and forth to her first job. The average cost for mom and dad, for this launch into adulthood? Approximately $44,000.

If only the state of California cared so much about the realities facing its children. Foster children are turned out of their parents’ house at the age of 18, to survive, and rarely thrive, on their own. The statistics are daunting for their futures and expensive for taxpayers: Less than 3 percent graduate from college. They are disproportionately represented in the prison system, and female foster youth are four times more likely to receive public assistance than the general population.

Now we have a chance at reversing these outcomes. State Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, are introducing a bill to create a “transitional guardian program” for foster youth aging out of the system. The program will offer former foster youth tuition money, housing vouchers, and — crucially — a mentor of their choice to dispense the money and report their progress to the state, until the youth reaches the age of 24 or is prepared to launch themselves.

This Supportive Transitional Emancipation Program (STEP) has similar precedents at both the state and national levels, so there’s little danger of California forming a new program that won’t work. In 2002, Congress authorized the Chafee Educational Training Vouchers, which offer former foster youth $5,000 a year for tuition or vocational training. Despite spotty distribution — the funds dribble out at a notoriously slow pace — the program is constantly oversubscribed.

Within California, the best examples are in the nonprofit sector. The Guardian Scholars program, sponsored by the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, offers emancipated foster youth financial aid, housing and mentoring so that they can attend participating colleges — and it boasts a retention rate of nearly 70 percent, better than the community at large. It was wise of Migden and Jones to work with a nonprofit — the San Diego-based Children’s Advocacy Institute, in this instance — to target best practices. One of the best elements of the STEP program is its insistence on the active participation of emancipating foster youth. They’ll have the chance to “opt-out” in case they feel fed up with the idea of another program, and also “opt-in” later on, if they decide that life on their own isn’t so rosy. They’ll also help choose their own mentors. The only thing that would improve on this system would be the inclusion of former foster youth as advocates and role models — an idea that 22-year-old Laney Kermani, a participant in First Place Fund for Youth, an Oakland-based emancipation services nonprofit, enthusiastically endorses.

“Former transitional foster youth have to be part of this,” she said. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”

STEP won’t be cheap. In its cost-benefit analysis of such a program, the Children’s Advocacy Institute showed that it will cost about $123 million annually after the first five years. But it’s certainly possible that the state can obtain at least some federal funds for the program, particularly in the form of housing vouchers, and a little creativity in the form of public-private partnerships would go a long way as well. Even if the state has to come up with the bulk of the money, however, it will still receive the bulk of the benefit.

STEP will save the state money after 12 years — even assuming that it only results in most former foster youth achieving the same levels of education, welfare usage and imprisonment as the rest of the population. In 23 years, once it works it way through an entire generation of foster youth, STEP will pay for all of its costs — even the start-up ones. When our legislators see that price tag, we urge them to keep in mind not only their unrivaled opportunity to help foster youth live happier, more productive lives, but also those benchmark years, 12 and 23. Though they will be termed out of office, they could, by approving the STEP program, leave a tremendous legacy for California.

An Editorial by the San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, January 28, 2007

Aid Urged for Older Foster Kids

Abandonment at age 18 causes huge problems, group says

by Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sacramento — The state of California neglects foster care children once they turn 18, turning them out onto the street with nowhere to live, no way to support themselves and nobody to turn to for support, according to a new report by the Children’s Advocacy Institute.

The institute, run out of the University of San Diego School of Law, on Tuesday called upon the state Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to support new legislation providing substantial financial support for foster youth once they “age out” of the system at 18 and ensure they have an adult guardian to provide guidance.

“These are not other people’s children. These are legally our children,” said Robert Fellmeth, director of the institute. “How you treat them is a measure of your devotion to family values.”

Youth nationwide who live with their parents typically don’t become self-sufficient until age 26 — and their parents on average contribute $44,000 after they turn 18 in rent, utilities, food, medical care, college tuition, transportation and other necessities to help them get there, according to the report.

For foster youth, it’s an entirely different story. Every year, 4,000 of them age out of California’s foster care system. Many get Medi-Cal health coverage. Some get help with rent and college tuition. But, according to the authors of the report, state assistance comes piecemeal and adds up to 12 percent of the average $44,000 other youth get from their parents after turning 18.

The consequences are dire, the report authors said. Sixty-five percent leave foster care with nowhere to live, and 51 percent are unemployed. Far more will wind up in prison than in college — 20 percent to 3 percent by comparison. Girls who age out of the system are four times more likely than the general population to receive public assistance.

Forty percent of people living in California’s homeless shelters are former foster children.

This bleak picture isn’t anything new, and numerous governmental and university studies have shown similar statistics, according to Denis Udall, a senior program officer at the Walter S. Johnson Foundation who specializes in foster care.

“It’s really commonly accepted throughout the country that this is an extremely at-risk, vulnerable population,” he said.

The Children’s Advocacy Institute on Tuesday proposed remedying the situation with “The Transition Guardian Plan,” which the report authors said is the first of its kind in the nation. State Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, have pledged to sponsor the proposal in the coming weeks in hopes of securing the money in the 2007-08 budget.

Under the proposal, a court-appointed guardian would be appointed for every foster youth sometime between their 16th and 18th birthdays. This person could be the foster parent, another relative, an attorney, a social worker or somebody else the teenager has come to know well.

The guardian would be paid $100 monthly by the state to oversee the youth once they turn 18. The state would send a stipend for the youth to the guardian, who would be in charge of distributing funds and guiding the youth in how to manage the money. The stipend would vary according to need, but would typically range from $850 monthly right after the youth turns 18 to $258 monthly during the fifth year of participation.

The total allotted to the typical youth would be $47,000 over five years, after which the goal would be for the youth to be self-sufficient.

The total annual cost to the state for the new program would be $123 million after five years.

Proponents said that for every dollar the state spends on the program, $2 would be saved in the long run in prison costs, public assistance costs and the higher income taxes that self-sufficient former foster youth would eventually contribute.

Foster care has become a major issue in Sacramento, in part due to a series of Chronicle editorials highlighting problems within the state system. Schwarzenegger signed a raft of bills last year aimed at improving the lot of foster youth, including protecting them from identify theft, making it easier to find their biological siblings and providing more funds for rental assistance.

But according to Fellmeth, these measures have been “very small, tiny baby steps” that haven’t tackled core problems. “I don’t care if you’re on crutches or not — you’ve got to walk the walk,” he said, taking a jab at the hobbled governor who recently broke a leg while skiing.

Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said Tuesday that the governor has taken significant steps to improve the foster care system. She said she didn’t know enough about the new plan to say whether he would sign it into law if it passes the Legislature.

“He’s been working consistently since taking office to protect the children entrusted to the state’s care,” she said. “It’s something he has worked on and something he continues to work on.”

Fellmeth and the other report authors were joined in Sacramento Tuesday by four former foster youth.

One of them, Nancy O’Reilly, 26, lived a chaotic life with her sisters and mother until her mother abandoned them when Nancy was 13. When she hit the end of her senior year of high school, her friends reveled in their senior trips and graduation while she was privately “scared to death” of being out on her own.

“I was completely in survival mode,” she said, noting she worked part-time and went to college, but eventually dropped out. But her story has a happy ending. She was adopted at age 24 by a former social worker and is now attending Cal State Stanislaus.

Her sisters weren’t so fortunate. O’Reilly said they have resorted to working as strippers and have been arrested, homeless, on drugs, on welfare and in abusive relationships.

“Some people say it’s the choices they made, but when you have no choices, you do what you have to do in order to survive,” she said. “Today, I want to beg the state to stop abandoning my foster brothers and sisters.”

Foreign Adoptions in U.S. Drop in 2006

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

Saturday, January 6, 2007

After tripling over the past 15 years, the number of foreign children adopted by Americans dropped sharply in 2006, the result of multiple factors which have jolted adoption advocates and prompted many would-be adoptive parents to reconsider their options.

The consequences could be profound for the ever-growing numbers of Americans interested in adopting abroad. Already, some have had their hopes quashed by tightened eligibility rules in China; adoptions from Africa, where millions of children have been orphaned by AIDS and wars, could increase if those from China and Eastern Europe continue to decrease.

Declines were recorded last year in nearly all countries that recently have been the top sources of adopted children — China, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine among them. Increases from less familiar alternatives — Ethiopia, Liberia, Haiti and Vietnam — partly offset the drop, but some experts believe the era of constantly surging foreign adoption has ended.

“The huge growth rates you saw in the ’90s — I think that’s over,” said Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services.

He urged Americans considering international adoption to “reassess any preconceived notions they have … and get educated on the myriad options that are available.”

Overall, according to new State Department figures, international adoptions by Americans dropped to 20,679 in the 2006 fiscal year from 22,728 in 2005 — the first significant decline since 1992.

Adoptions from China, the No. 1 source of children since 2000, fell 18 percent, from 7,906 to 6,493, while adoptions from Russia, the No. 2 source for the previous six years, dropped about 20 percent to a 10-year low of 3,706. Both are among many nations trying to reform their child welfare systems and increase domestic adoptions.

In some cases, reform campaigns are coupled with skepticism toward foreign adoption, including concern about occasional cases of abuse. Romania has banned adoptions by foreigners, except for relatives; Ukraine and Kazakhstan insist that foreign parents submit regular reports on their adopted children.

Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption, said the drop in foreign adoptions is both understandable and worrisome.

“There’s always been the issue of national pride, where the country of origin wants to take care of their children themselves,” he said. “But there are so many orphans that an increase in domestic adoptions shouldn’t result in a decrease of international adoptions. We urge these countries to be enthusiastic toward both.”

Atwood sees potential for increased U.S. adoptions from Brazil, Mexico and India. He also says more African governments should be urged to overcome their traditional wariness of international adoption.

For many would-be adoptive parents in the United States, however, China is by far the country of choice. Its government-run adoption system is considered honest and efficient, and its orphanage population — mostly abandoned baby girls — is considered healthier on average than those in many other countries.

Now there is widespread concern over last year’s drop in adoptions and China’s recent announcement of new rules, to take effect May 1, regarding who can adopt. They give priority to stable married couples between 30 and 50. Single people, and those suffering from obesity or depression, will lose out.

Among those dismayed by the rules is Ann Freeman, 42, a travel agent from West Valley City, Utah, whose longtime dream of adopting a Chinese child has been dashed by the new curb on single parents.

“I’m heartbroken,” she said. “This child would have been the world to me.”

Her preparations included learning Chinese and studying child psychology. She eventually may consider adopting from elsewhere in the Far East, but worries that other countries’ programs aren’t as reliable as China’s.

The same new rule against single parents would have prevented Anna Spitz, a University of Arizona research coordinator, from adopting her two thriving Chinese daughters — Rachel, 14, and Sarah, 9.

Spitz credited Chinese authorities with seeking the best homes possible for orphaned children, but finds the new rule “a little insulting.”

“I recognize it’s nice to have two-parent families,” she said. “But it makes me sad that a lot of single parents who’d create great families won’t be able to adopt now.”

Chinese officials say the new rules will shorten the waiting time — now around 15 months — for well-qualified couples. China also wants more children with disabilities to be adopted overseas; criteria for people willing to adopt special-needs children is slightly more lax than for other adoptions.

The number of orphans and abandoned babies in China remains substantial, though authorities say it is dwindling. About 51,000 were adopted in 2005, according to the government — 13,000 by foreign families, the rest in China.

Professor Li Luxin, deputy secretary general of the China Association for Juvenile Studies, said domestic adoptions will surely increase.

“More families are well-off,” he said. “They own apartments and cars and it is a way for them to repay society by adopting an orphan.”

The president of one of America’s largest China-oriented adoption agencies, Joshua Zhong of Colorado-based Chinese Children Adoption International, said China’s new restrictions were in line with those of many other countries, and he predicted China would remain the top choice for Americans seeking to adopt.

However, he hopes democratic reforms will occur in China that shrink the pool of abandoned children.

“I’m praying to be out of a job as soon as possible,” said Zhong, a one-time child member of the Red Guard who came to the United States in 1986. “I want to see a China where no one will be abandoned.”

The only major country of origin to increase U.S. adoptions in 2006 was Guatemala; with 4,135 adoptions. It overtook Russia in the No. 2 spot.

However, that status is expected to change later this year when the United States ratifies the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions, a pact setting tough standards which Guatemala’s corruption-prone adoption system doesn’t meet. Adoptions may be suspended while Guatemala tries to make required changes; some experts doubt the number will ever return to last year’s level.

Some advocates worry that the Hague treaty, though well-intentioned, might not succeed in encouraging more international adoptions.

“We sincerely hope that all the good work that’s being done isn’t going to result in fewer adoptions,” said Lee Allen, a spokesman for the National Council for Adoption. “Every time adoptions slow down in these countries, it means less opportunities for kids to have a home in America. It’s not just numbers — it’s a tragedy.”


Associated Press writer Audra Ang in Beijing contributed to this report.

Foster care reform

Foster Youth Hearing

Adapted from: Select Committee on Foster Care: May 12, 2006 Public Hearing on Foster CareRebecca Cohen: Let me properly introduce Danielle Thompson, who is 20 years old. I think I met you when you were 19. Happy birthday. She is a former foster youth who lived in 63 different places. I always have to pause when I say that. She works at Community United Against Violence. She’s active in California Youth Connection and Out of Home Youth Advocacy Council, that addresses LGBT foster youth and their families, and you didn’t include it in your intro, but I happen to know that you recently achieved your GED.

Danielle Thompson: Okay so first of all, to all my homies (LAUGHTER) I’d like to thank you (LAUGHTER). I would like to thank you all for having us here. I would like to thank you guys for having us be able to speak on the issues that need to be faced: permanency, education, and transitional housing.

So first I’m going to start out. So my name is Danielle Thompson. I’m 20 years old, and I currently reside in San Francisco, California, which I love. AB-408, which was passed in 2003, and AB-1412, which was passed in 2005, requires social workers should ask foster youth about adult relationships that are important to them, and not only take action to support and maintain those relationships.

However, most of the youth are still not being engaged in identifying people that could be potential permanency options. I found my permanent connection while in the foster care system, not knowing that it was permanency. He got me through the tough time and tried to prepare me for the world I am in today. We had our ups and downs and we shared many laughters.

When deciding to venture out on my own, he said he would help me, and he did. I moved to San Francisco, and I lost contact with my permanent connection. I want to say permanency is not meant to last. Recently, I just had a crisis with my transitional housing. Yes, everyone, I still face issues in transitional housing.

I was at a breaking point in my transitional housing, and I really couldn’t call my permanent connection. Instead, while crying, my phone rang, and a networking buddy of mine—I do media work—I answered the phone, and he’s like, he’s talking to me, and he’s like, “Are you okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” And immediately offers me money, thinking that I have financial problems.

And I say no. Instead, he comes out of his busy job, and he works for AC Transit, you know, a really busy job in Oakland, California, and drives from Oakland to San Francisco to come and speak to me and just help me solve my problem, takes me to Starbucks, and you know, we just have like this, you know we’re on this a caffeine high.

We had the funniest conversation. And then you know, talking about my problem, and really, really, it really helped me. Because I didn’t have, I had people to turn to, but it just wasn’t working, and all he really did was listen to me. And that’s what I really needed, someone to just listen to my problems that I’d been keeping in for seven months living in San Francisco.

All the issues I face, youth who are aging out of the system will have to go through. I still struggle with homeless, separating from my family, dropping out of school. In less than two years that I had emancipated from the system, I was homeless five times. I really didn’t have a place to call home or a place to at least finish school.

I lost contact with my sisters and my whole family. Losing my family while going through—see if I’m going to cry, because my family’s up there. Okay. Losing—

Rebecca Cohn: Take your time. And don’t worry about it if you have to cry. We’ll probably cry too.

Unnamed Permanent Connection: I love you.

Danielle Thompson: I love you too. Losing my family going through these hard times made my situation worse. I remember growing up with my brothers and sisters and sharing all these secrets with them. I have not told my sisters these secrets because they’re so far away.

Siblings are important to have while in the foster care system, because they are the only permanent connection that you have.

(She cries, and Assemblyman Mark Leno hands her his handkerchief)

Oh my God, he gave me his hanky!


Siblings are important to have all in the foster care system, because it is the only permanent connection we have. So we want to make sure that those connections stay alive. I feel like if I had that permanent connection, then I wouldn’t have moved so much.

We as youth need to break the cycle of pushing away when help is being offered. And as adults, we need to not give up on our youth. They are not only our issues for today, but for the future. Permanency is important for all of you to have. No youth should have to live in this world without a lifelong connection or a caring adult in their life. So I have come up with a couple of recommendations as a young person who still struggles with life. (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: (INAUDIBLE)

Danielle Thompson: First, I feel we should have stronger enforcement with AB-408 and 1412. Second, siblings are important to have a connection with while in the system. So why break what is already ripped apart from us? Third, I had experienced multiple housing programs. Although I appreciate all the support, and the safe places from the streets, there are a lot of downfalls in these programs.

A lot of them still carry the way of a group home. This hinders our growth as young adults. It keeps us in this institutionalized mentality. We don’t need housing with rules and regulations. We need housing that is going to give us independence and stability.

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you very much for what you said, because I think if we move forward in anticipation of a lot of money coming through a bond, when we define what happens with that, I think that your testimony is very important, and we should come back to that in the, right exactly, institution. It’s an opportunity to make some changes.

Our next speaker is Maribe. Maribe has been in foster care for five years, and she will be emancipating very soon, in June. She is the Chapter President for the Contra Costa California Youth Connection, and she participates on the speakers’ bureau for Independent Living Skills Program.

Maribe: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Maribe. I am currently involved in, as you said, been in foster care for over five years. I’m president of Contra Costa Chapter of CYC. I’ve been in all different types of foster care. (INAUDIBLE) foster homes, and group homes.

I’ve had eight different placements, and I’ve been to five different high schools. In middle school, where I entered permanent foster care, my plan was to graduate with a 4.0, valedictorian, all honor and AP courses, and be senior class president. After that, I knew that I was going to go into UC Berkeley or Stanford right away or Harvard.

However, that’s not what happened. My academic record failed. It went down a lot. All the transition and all the new homes and all the new people that, you know, kept coming in and out of my life, made it really hard for me to just be able to focus on my studying and school work. I had to be constantly worried about different things, instead of just focusing on my work. And my extracurricular activities were, where am I going to move, or am I going to need this for this mom? I need to make sure I have this working, and the other school, you know, what credits count for that school?

Is this class the same as that one? And a lot of that happened in my transcripts. Some of my math classes were the same; they were just called different names. So that got messed up. So they tried to put me into a lower placement English classroom, which I made them test me out, because I was in honors classes. So I’m like wait, hold on. (LAUGHTER)

So now my plans have changed just a little bit. Before I ever thought of a junior college, I was accepted by different universities. But I will be going to junior college. I will be going to Las Positas. From Las Positas, I’ll be transferring into UC Berkeley. From UC Berkeley, I’ll do my grad work at Harvard or Columbia.


From Columbia I’ll be going into the Peace Corps, I’ll be going into Haiti for two years and three months and serving there. I’ll come back, I’ll join the Air Force, I’ll be an officer, I’ll retire, go work at a prestigious law firm, take over the law firm, become Senator. After Senator, I’ll be running for President. After I’m President, I’ll have the next upcoming President appoint me as Supreme Court Judge.


Rebecca Cohn: On behalf of my colleagues here, we’ll volunteer to be your campaign team.


Maribe: Thank you. Okay. Well, on that note, (INAUDIBLE) isn’t that different than a lot of other foster youth that are in foster care right now. And even though my plans didn’t come out exactly how I wanted them, there are ways that you guys can help us help the other youth stay on track for what they want.

My first recommendation is for all of you to have a place to stay, because in a lot of the placements I’d been, I didn’t even have a desk, you know, to just sit down and do my homework. I always had to be in the bed doing my homework. I had to do it late when everyone was sleeping, and then even then I had a problem, because sometimes you have roommates, and the other girls want to go to sleep, because they don’t want to do nothing. And then during the day, everyone’s fighting, or everyone’s doing something else or selling things or whatever. Something like that. So at least a place to study would be nice.

My second recommendation would be school materials and up-to-date technology. My senior year, this year, I have a senior exit project. And that project is all on the computer. And I don’t have access to no computer at home. There was a computer in the group home I’m staying, but that’s only for the staff. So we’re not allowed to use it, even though it’s there, it’s like oh, here’s some candy but I can’t have it. Okay.

So we don’t have that access, and then I was in AP Statistics this year, and I had to drop, because I needed a graphing calculator for my statistics class, and that calculator cost a little bit over $100, and I’m not able to get that, so I had to drop that class. So we need resources for the rest of the schools.

My third recommendation is tutoring. I know that tutoring is provided to foster youth, and some of the other foster youth that were in some different levels than myself, that weren’t as, weren’t __________ lower (INAUDIBLE) or maybe just regular, that they had studied, they were able to provide tutors for them. But when I asked for a tutor for AP Statistics and Chemistry, they were not able to provide them for once. So when they kept on __________ the tutor agency and they put my slip in the back. So behind, like they’ll push you to the back. And then in the middle of the year, I had to drop that, because I was too deep into that class, and I couldn’t have a D- or a C+ on my report card. So we need tutors for all those. AP courses and courses __________ special ed.

My fourth recommendation would be for youth to be involved in extracurricular activities, and the proper spending for these activities. In the home that I’m at right now, currently a group home, and the environment is very stressful. The girls are very mad at each other. There’s constant partying and __________ fighting and roughness. I, however, am not there very often, so I don’t take part in that too much.

And we just need I guess to be provide with, like for school if we want to try out for cheerleading. If I wanted to do cheerleading, I wouldn’t be able to, because who’s going to buy me my uniform, or going to be able to provide me with the money to go to the camp or you know, the fundraisers? So that money is not there. And extracurricular activities are also important, because you can establish a strong support system and social skills with people.

I participate in Young Life __________ Ministry. It’s an outreach group for youth with disabilities. And I’m also activity coordinator for a convalescent home in Concord. That’s my passion, and if it weren’t for the two groups that I volunteer most of my time with, I would be a very, very, very sad and __________ girl. So they make me happy.

And then the fifth recommendation would be stability with one school. That’s very important, because you move so many schools, and then the teachers don’t get to know you the way they’d like you to, and then when you have, if you go and ask them to write a recommendation letter, they know that that recommendation letter is still on a history of a semester or a quarter. So they can’t really say too much, even though they sometimes like to, they want to, but it’s like no, because I don’t have a long relationship with you, so that kind of plays out when I’m old.

So I’m asking you guys to take this into consideration and please push forward these things. They’re the things that we really need for school. And it’s for our future and our education. Thank you.


Rebecca Cohn: Our next speaker is Nicole McGovern. Nicole is 19 years old, and is a student at UC Berkeley. She had foster care at 12 and guardianship at 14, and she works with CYC’s newsletter Empower, and wants to pursue a career in journalism.

Nicole McGovern: Good morning, everyone. First I want to thank you guys for all being here and for creating this. I thank everyone in the audience for being here and listening to us as well.

My name is Nicole McGovern, as you said. I’m currently a 19-year-old freshman in college. And unfortunately that’s more than most youth in foster care will ever be able to say. I’m currently attending one of the best universities in the country, right across the bay at University of California at Berkeley. I’m getting a low-cost education that most foster youth will never have a chance to experience.

Foster youth are not missing out on educational opportunities because there isn’t enough financial assistance for youth in care. It isn’t solely because of college acceptance policies, and it most certainly is not because youth in care aren’t smart enough to attend college. The actuality is that most foster youth don’t have the stability or support that applying to college, let alone attending college, demands. The process is long, and the commitment is daunting. The foster care system as it is now does not facilitate permanent relationships that provide the setting for conversations about what it means to pursue education.

I was put into foster care at the age of 12. For my first two years in care, I felt isolated, even while I was surrounded by people. I didn’t know the people I lived with, and nobody gave me individual attention. My foster parents didn’t care about my education. I didn’t feel comfortable asking them for help with homework, because they didn’t think school was important. They had no permanent interest in me, and therefore didn’t feel compelled to think about my future.

As I got ready to transition from middle school to high school, nobody was there to talk to me about the importance of education or what track I needed to be on to succeed. When I was 14, I lived with my biological mother for a short stint before returning to the foster care system.

This time, I was lucky. My foster parents were wonderful. Soon after I moved in, I was lucky enough to enter into guardianship. My permanency was possible because my social worker supported me and was dedicated to my well-being. I was never transferred from her already enormous case load, because she valued the idea of permanency. She made my guardianship possible, even though it was a difficult process. She always did her best to ensure that I had a strong foundation.

My guardians quickly became my parents. They always supported me in my endeavors, especially in school, to help me when I needed it and praising me when I succeeded. Their dedication made it possible for me to excel in school. My parents thought of me as their daughter. They had a vested interest in my future. They always cared, so I had a reason to care about my stuff too.

So I did care. I applied to colleges, and their support helped me stay on track, even though the process was tiring and confusing. And then I got in. I got accepted to a lot of schools, and ultimately I set my sights on UC Berkeley.

My freshman year is now coming to an end. This is a fitting time for me to relate my story, because in less than a week, I will leave UC Berkeley for the summer. Unlike most foster youth, though, I will have somewhere to go, a home. My home is filled with many fond memories, but most importantly, it’s filled with people who will be waiting for me the next time I want to go home.

My home is filled with my family, with parents that I call every night, and siblings that support and respect me. It’s filled with love. When I was in foster care before guardianship, I didn’t think about education. My thoughts were concentrated on whether or not I was going to be moved again, and would I ever see my siblings again. Nobody encouraged me to think ahead or value learning, until I had a permanent placement and a solid foundation.

Without the permanency that I had in my life, my first year of college would never had started. Because I did have permanency there, my first year of college has been more than an in, more than an experience. It’s been a success. Thank you.


I’d just like to conclude all of our presentations by saying our recommendations are to encourage education, tutoring and extracurricular activities, to unite siblings, and to create permanency. These are not things that are too absurd. And that it’s really key to implement those that have already passed that do some of these things.

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you very much.


Actually, I just, your stories are, besides being incredibly emotional and touch our hearts, they’re very illuminating in terms of places that we need to be paying better attention. And I keep coming back to Mr. Bell’s comments about needing to be treated as if you were our own children. Because the expectation we have for our own children is high. And I can say as a mother that there’s not a day, not a day that goes by that I don’t have actions that I am thinking about with regard to my son.

And we need to take on that responsibility as it relates to you, because your success is dependent upon that, and these different kinds of experiences that you’re illuminating, the thing about a desk and the thing about extracurricular activities, and the hurdle after hurdle after hurdle that you’ve experienced that other kids don’t have to experience, because we’ve set up a system that isn’t working to produce a quality life. It’s set up to produce something very different.

And you all should be extraordinarily commended that you have been able to get to this moment and are so articulate in front of us in telling your stories. Because your obstacles are enormous, and I just, I will be taking that very seriously.

And I think one thing that all of us feel is a complete confidence in finding out where you are four or five years from now, and knowing that you will be very, very successful. So thank you very much.


Speaker: I just wanted to follow on the comments of Assemblywoman Cohn, not only are your stories illuminating, but they’re really inspiring. And for us to engage on the legislative level on so many different issue areas, it’s very heartening for us to have a status of the work we’re doing relative to foster care. Really impacts real lives in a real way. So you inspire us in return. So we thank you.

I also just wanted to additionally thank Danielle, who came to our press conference when we announced our bill here in connecting siblings and providing assistance to get to college and to stay in college and to graduate. And so we’re looking forward to Danielle’s academic success in higher education as well.

Rebecca Cohn: Absolutely.


Speaker: One thing, each one of these points were very, extremely critical on what you’re missing here. But they’re unique that we’re hearing from each one of these young folks how critical it is that they maintain contact with the siblings. You know, that’s a key. That is an anchor.


Rebecca Cohn: We’ll call up the next panel, and while I’m doing that, let me mention that Senator Migden, who was here earlier, just wanted everyone to know that her staff or, she had to leave, but she does have a staff representative here, Alicia Prego. And so she wanted to make sure that we were aware that she is being represented.

Okay. Let me call up the next panel, which will address transitional planning, employment, and housing. Can I please have Daisy Roja? Did I do that right? To come forward. Miranda Parker, and Jesus MacMillan. And this panel is representing Peace for Kids and the three individuals are former foster youth.

First we’ll hear from Daisy, who’s been in foster care since she was six years old. She’s now 21, and she resides in the transitional living program in L.A. She works LACC, huh? L.A. Conservation Corps, removing graffiti and keeping Los Angeles beautiful. And she wants to major in psychology to better understand the needs of foster youth. Daisy?

Daisy Roja: Okay, I’d like to start by saying I thank you for the opportunity for letting me speak up on issues that I know shouldn’t be treated, while I was in foster care. I’m not emancipated, and I’m 21 years old. I just want to thank Peace for Kids for bringing me. Because I’m with that program. I’m part of the Advisory Board, I’m the Vice President. And I want to start telling you a little bit about my story. So here I go.

Well, I feel like transition has been the issue for me, because as I grew up, I never had a sense of stability. I was put in foster care since I was six years old. And the before that, I’ve also been from home to home since before that. I was born in __________ my mother was kicked out and all of this stuff, so I was __________ home. So I’ve been abused all my live, since I was a child. So by the time she got me or she’d seen me, I was already abused. I had burns, I had bruises, I had, I went to school, my teachers started checking me out. I started lying to her. I got black eyes by falling on the floor.

And so I guess they realized or decided that they needed to take me out of the home. And I was put in foster care, and my first foster home was a very special foster home for me. Because I felt like I could kind of relate to them, because they spoke Spanish and English. My first language is Spanish. I understood it better than spoke it. My mentality at six years old, I was, my mentality was that of a three-year-old because I was such an abused child.

So as I got older, they kind of trained me and taught me how to speak English and Spanish. So both of them, I learned how to speak it. As I went on, I went back to my mother, not because I wanted to go back, but because she was begging me. Nobody cared to question that, and I was scared, so I ended up saying yes to the judge. I was put back into the foster system after I decided to run away when I was 11. From then on, they put me back in the temporary home, and then they put me back in the same foster mother that I had when I first went into the foster system.

She decided that she had three children of her, not of her own, but that her sister’s that were also in foster care. So she decided that I had to move, because one of the foster children had a problem psychologically, and she had a lot of problems, and me and her always used to write, because she had like an issue or whatever. So they decided to move me. That really affected me, because I felt like you know, I really cared about this family. It was my home, you know?

Jesus MacMillan: We’re used to it. We all talk to counselors, we just __________ our hearts in front of a crowd.

Daisy Roja: I’ve been in counseling all my life, but it just never fails to get to you when you’re really, when it is like such a big deal, you know?

But I was taken out of the foster home and put into a different foster home, and that’s when I decided that if nobody wants to deal with me (CRYING) then I wasn’t going to, I wasn’t going to push myself find a family that loved me. So—excuse me.

So I just decided not to take anybody serious. So I closed up. And ever since, if I had a problem with a foster parent or a they had a problem with me, I would act bad. And they would kick me out. And it’s just so easy, because I wasn’t their family, their real family.

Or I would just act up so they could move me, purposefully. Now finally as I got older, I realized that I was getting older, and I wasn’t really stable. And that became a problem, because not only was I moving from home to home in to many homes, I didn’t really have friends, and I didn’t have nobody to support me, but I also had problems with my education.

My social worker started questioning me and trying to make me go into special ed. That’s really offended me, because I never felt like I was a stupid child. Some kids, they, it’ll work for them, but for me, I felt like I was not stupid or, and it also seemed like it was the special education, kids, like slow or that has psychological problems. I didn’t feel like I had that. You know, so it kind of offended me.

So I told him no. I had to work harder than any other kid so I could move onto my right grade. My mother had took me back a grade. So I had to work extra hard so they could put me back into my regular grade. When I was in seventh grade, my principal decided that maybe I will give you a try, and if you do good in these classes in eighth grad classes, then I’ll let graduate. And I did it.

Then I went to my ninth grade year. Ever since, I just kept moving, Compton, Crenshaw, Watts in Los Angeles. And no sense of stability. Just kept moving, nobody really that had my back, knowing nobody that just said, “You know what? I don’t care. You’re not going nowhere.” You know? No one that said, “I’ll support you.” Nobody went to my open house to see how I was doing with my grades.

The social workers didn’t stay on the foster parents. And so it was just hard, you know? If no one says, “You know what? I gotta stay on you,” and nobody says, “How good are their grades?” then why should I care? I’m going to stay in my own little world, and I’m going to stay a child all my life.

Well, I decided that I was going to get in touch with somebody my age. Maybe somebody my age that’s understand me. And that was wrong too because my senior year, I had problems because I broke up with my boyfriend, the only person I opened up in all my life, my emotions, my love, I didn’t know I loved nobody else. This was the first person that I loved. That affected me, but I still had to still work over that and the fact that I almost did not graduate. You know?

Then I was pushing to try and to get my paperwork together. I was not born here. I was raised here all my life, since I was six years old. I had no paperwork together. My social workers blamed me because they didn’t have the paperwork together, and (INAUDIBLE) what are you here for?

I mean, my residency card, my ID, my social security, I didn’t have it. I graduated when I was 17, and I have to work on all this, so I could be in an independent living program. When I finally moved out into an independent living program, I didn’t even know what I was doing.

I was going to, looking for jobs. I didn’t have no experience. So you know, then I had to work out the fact that they wanted me to be in college. They gave me a scholarship for full load classes. I only can half the load classes. And I’m not, I’m wasn’t at this study at high school. So how was I supposed to keep up my classes and my job and I’m looking, I’m supposed to be looking for a job plus going to school and keeping my job so I can stay in independent living program?

It didn’t work out. I had to drop out of high school, I mean, out of college, and try to look for a job so I could keep my apartment. Then I tried to figure out am I going to get stable, and so I could go move forward so I could keep going to college? But all of this was going, on too much. Everything was pushed on me all at once, so it didn’t work out.

Then finally, I stayed, which I’m proud of myself, because I stayed in independent living program for a year. Then I got kicked out. I got kicked out. And then I had asked my foster mother if I could move back with her. Now, she said yeah, but her sister did not want me to go there already. When I went back, I did go back. And me and her had fell out a little disagreement. Her sister kicked me out. I was homeless. I didn’t have nowhere to go. I asked my ILP coordinator, I did have a job, so I didn’t know what to do. I was talking to __________ I had to move in with somebody I was talking to.

But I was still living with people that could easily kick me out. If a man doesn’t want to deal with you, he is going to put you out. If you ain’t doing what he wants you to do, he’s going to kick you out. So I’m living with a man or whatever, he wants me to do this, he wants me to do that, I’m already close to cursing. If I don’t want to do something, I ain’t going to do it.

So I decided to move out. And I went through so much issues because I don’t know the world. Because I didn’t know that you know how to do taxes, how to do this, how to do that. I got myself in problem situations, I was stressed out, I was going through into situations. I was depressed. Then, I finally said, you know what? I’m going to go talk to my ILP coordinator.

Well, what does he give me? He gives me a paper that says this is a flyer for basically a job fair. Where is my bus passes? You want me to look for a job? I don’t, I finally had to quit my job because I was going through some problems, but then when I am looking for a job, you give me a flyer looking for a job, but you don’t give me no tokens to go to it? You don’t give me no bus pass, when I’m asking you, I’m asking you for bus passes, you never call me, when suddenly, I’m not 21 years old yet, and you don’t provide me with the stuff that you’re supposed to be providing me, because you’re supposed to be the one to hold my hand.

You know, and I feel like all of this could have been prevented. You know, and finally, when I turned 21, they were not able to help me. They were not able to help me because now I’m 21 years old. That’s the limit. I didn’t have nowhere to go, he gave me advice on where to go, he gave me a bunch of papers and people to call and stuff like that. They were telling me, they were sending me on the runaround. And it would have been more helpful if he would have been able to say, “Okay we’re going to take you here, we’re going to have a worker, we’re going to take you there, and we’re going to see what we’re going to do for you.”

But he didn’t do that. He just gave me papers and told me to go look for the stuff on my own. When I had no clue or idea about how to do these things.

Rebecca Cohn: How did you get connected with _______ Conservation Corps?

Daisy Roja: He did give me, he gave me the flyer. And finally the person, because I had ended up started to live with somebody else. And he gave me, still homeless, but he gave me a flyer, and I ended up going up there because they let me borrow some money for the bus. I ended up going to the job fair, and I see, it was called _____. They’re like the Conservation Corps, but they do marine and stuff like taking care of the sea and like animals of the sea and stuff like that. And I got the job through them. Then they found out I was homeless. And they acted me like that. And it wasn’t really their job.

I went through the foster system, and they didn’t work out, but somebody else that had those programs, they quickly added up. You know, they quickly like, was like, “Oh, you’re homeless? Oh I think we have a program for you or maybe we can help out,” and they put me at a hostel for a month or two. Half of the time when I was working there, I paid half, like a week, and then my boss would pay the other week, and we would go back and forth until they got me into this program called transitional living program.

And now I’m living in my own apartment. And you know, working with Los Angeles Conservation Corps because they transferred me over there, because it’s closer to my job. And it’s closer to where I live. So that’s how I, you know, I got out of that situation.

Then also my _____ worker, she helped me by telling me about Peace for Kids. And when I went up there, they told me, well, these are the things that is going on here, we would like you to speak to younger youth and what not to do or what you could have done better, so you could prevent them from going through what you when through. I said, sure, because you know what? That’s my heart.

I really don’t wish nothing that happened to me upon anybody else. Because I had (INAUDIBLE). So that’s why I’m like, doing what I’m doing. And then I know, I want to be an actress, a model one day. I may want to be a foster mother and adopt a child, you know? I have goals, you know?

But nobody seemed to encourage me, or no one seemed to be there, to say, “You know what? I see that you want to be somebody.” You know? And the social workers just seemed to look at it as a job, the foster parents just seemed to look at it as we’re just basically (INAUDIBLE) like we’re just wrestling, or you’re just good at paying rent for us. That’s just the way I see it.

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you.


Before I introduce our next speaker, let me mention that soon after this panel, we will go to public comment. And for those lone people that are interested in commenting, if you hand your card into Mr. Marcus right there, Marcus Kincaid. Give him your card so that you can be called up to testify. Okay?

The next speaker is Miranda Parker. Miranda Parker has been in foster care for over 14 years and lived in over ten homes. She is 21 years old and lives in job corps in Long Beach, California. She’s completed training education in auto mechanics and plans to go to school to be a nurse assistant. She’s the president of Emancipation Youth Advisory Council, and volunteers for Peace for Kids.


Miranda Parker: Hello. I obviously want to say to everybody out there, I really, really appreciate it that you guys are sitting there, taking the time out of their day to focus on this. It really means a lot to me. And I want to thank you guys for being here too. You came a long way. __________ my name is Miranda Parker, like I said. I’ve been in foster care since I was the age of five. I’ve been to 14, probably 14 different homes, not including group homes and __________ or whatever.

I have received my high school diploma about a month ago (APPLAUSE). I have a great support system right now in my life. I honestly say they have got me, from the age 14 until now. I’m turning 21 next month. I mean, 22 next month. I’ll be 22 next month.

I have to say, this organization, Peace for Kids has made a very big impact on my life. To make me be the person that I am today, it’s __________. It took me a long time to get here, as far as my attitude and my low confidence and you know, low self-esteem, and stuff. I have now in my life, like I said, I’m in job corps. I’m turning 22. I have an adoptive dad right there. (APPLAUSE)

So that’s __________ Peace for Kids. A little bit about foster care, it was hard. It was something that you just can’t overcome. It’s something that is always in the back of your mind, it’s always something that creeps you at night. You know what I’m saying? Something that you can wake up with nightmares to. I’m going to be 22, I still wake up scared. It was hard.

Far as, you know, parents don’t understand you when you move place to place, you know, going to different schools, and meeting different friends. Once you go into a house, you’ve got to, it’s like you’ve got to prove yourself to this parent, that I want to be loved, I want to be sheltered, I want you to give me support that I need. And a lot of times, they don’t realize that, because they’ve got so many things that’s going on now, like doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and school and things like that. But still, like what about me?

In the end, I was so grateful that I was in foster care instead of being at home. My parents, because I see the people that they are today, they’re really not much. I feel bad. Being in foster care has benefited me as far as understanding that I can be somebody that no one else would have thought I would be. You know?

I’m proud of myself even making it this far with no kids. You know, with a high school diploma. You know? With a positive attitude, and I’m working with a great organization, Peace for Kids, and I’ve been with them for about I give it seven years now almost.

And, they have motivated me to keep going, letting me know that they are my support system. Whether I’m wrong or right, whether I’m, you know, are in or out, it doesn’t matter. I can leave for six months, and they will still try to come find me and still want to know where I’m at. They still support me in everything I do. And that’s what a lot of kids need.

They might not tell you. They’re not going to tell you. Honestly, they’re not going to tell you. It’s up to you to see it there and watch it behind the signs. Most kids are not going to tell you that all I need is love and I need the support. No. They’re going to go to their homies and their friend and tell them that, things like that.

Rebecca Cohn: Our kids don’t tell us that either.

Miranda Parker: Oh no. Yeah. You know what I’m saying? Kids are not, that’s just not going to happen. And it’s bad that they should be able to do that, but we’re not. We’re more closed in, and we’re not going to, we’re sheltered in, we’re not going to open up to everybody. I have a big brick against my heart, and it’s going to stay there until I know that I can trust you, you know? I’m talking to you guys, and I’m shaking up here and I’m as nervous as hell. So (LAUGHTER)

I’m going to say a little bit about transitional housing. I’ve been in a lot of them. My first transitional housing was, I graduated from high school June 13th. June 17th was my 18th birthday. June 19th, I moved into my first transitional home.

Everything rode so fast, I had no clue on what was going on. I was not in college already yet. I had no job. All I knew was that my social worker came to me and said I would have an apartment, dah-dah-dah, and we have, you know, if you want to look into whatever like that, it’s something that will benefit (INAUDIBLE) and all this extra stuff

She didn’t tell me nothing about the rules and regulations, what, you know, to overcome that. I got kicked out of the transitional housing because of having my friend living with me, because he’s homeless. I was nothing that my __________ brother that had been with me through everything in foster care be out on the street. So I let him stay with me, not knowing that oh, I could get in trouble for this. It was something that was not, you know, it was told to me once I got into the transitional home. All these rules, you have to go to this Tuesday class and do this and do that, and you have to keep a job and you have to pay rent. I’m like, I don’t have a job yet. So how can I pay rent? Then you back up with your rent.

So then you’re stuck with trying to pay your rent off and still trying to go to college and deal with all these things like that. I never knew that okay, I’ll be, you know, eating on Oodles and Noodles for two weeks straight. I never knew that. I didn’t think that would, you know, come to me.

I was more like, this is something that hits me hard, and I didn’t appreciate it. I wish I had a choice. I heard that you guys are coming out with a new law about having kids be able to stay, foster youth stay into the foster home until they’re 21 or something. I think that is a great idea. They may have not __________ yet. I think that’s a great idea. (APPLAUSE)

(INAUDIBLE) I had a choice. I did not have a choice. I was taken away from this younger home from my mama, my foster mom that I love to this day. And you know, that was it. Put into our old man, hey (INAUDIBLE) that’s it. Yes, I took the ILP classes. But that’s bullcrap. Let me tell you right now, that’s bullcrap. The one point is, they tell you, they take you grocery shopping with $50 and stuff like that with a group of other kids. I need something about me. I need personal. I need me, you, individual.

You know? I don’t need no rule session. We’re the same predicament because we’re foster kids, that’s it. We’re not in the same predicament as far as her problem, my problem, and his problem. You know? Things like that, we need more communication when it comes to that.

A lot of things, right now, I’m about to graduation from Long Beach _________ May 19th. I have no housing. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not going to break down __________ by myself, why? Because my support system is not going to let me. It’s just not going to happen. Thank God I have one, but for those who don’t, what are they going to do?

I’m the one right here that’s going to speak for them. They don’t know what they’re going to do. They have no clue. They want to know, they wish they could know, but they don’t have no clue. They’ll do anything and everything to make sure that they benefit from foster care, you know?

But at the same time, we can’t get a grab bag if you guys are not giving it to us. You know? We have to go through this and that and that and that just to go to camp. Just to go to something that’s positive and doing good things. You’ve got to go to the counselor, the social worker, you know, and it’s like I don’t even, once I look at a social worker, it’s not that, I won’t, you know, I’m looking at them, you’re the person that’s moving me. You’re the person that I have moved with every six months, I’m sitting there worried. I’m so proud of myself that I’ve been in job corps over nine months. Over nine months. I ain’t never been in a more than six months.

So which means every six months, I’m like, well, it’s time for me to go, you know? I shouldn’t be here. You know? It’s time for me to move. That don’t make no sense. I shouldn’t be thinking about that. I should be thinking that, oh, my new home I’m going to get. I don’t even have goals that I want to reach like that. I’m thinking about it every blue moon, but I’m not reaching for them like I want to.

But slowly but surely, I’m making progress in my life. And I think if what, all of the things I have been through, that’s what made me into the person that I am today. And I’m proud of myself. I don’t care if nobody else is, I’m proud of myself. (INAUDIBLE). (APPLAUSE)

(INAUDIBLE) we need better classes. I know I haven’t did in like, since I was like 14, but for those, I’m talking about teenagers, in their mind, they’re grown. Whether you want to believe it or not, they think they’re grown. Just because they can wash their own behind, they think they’re grown. (LAUGHTER)

And I’m knowing that oh, I’ve really got to take care of myself. A lot of times, people need to realize they need to separate their wants from their needs. Kids don’t understand that. They want a pair of Jordans, but they need deodorant. (LAUGHTER) You see what I mean? (INAUDIBLE) say they need to learn what, you know priorities, what their priorities are. (INAUDIBLE) I know that I’m supposed to put the noodles on the pot and put some water in it. But how am I going to get __________ stay on there? I don’t know that. And you know reading directions is not all work out. (LAUGHTER)

You should _____ more and more job opportunities. I understand that you know we need to learn how to go out and look for a job and everything like that. But don’t tell me that, and I don’t have the clothes for it. I don’t have, I don’t even know how to keep the job.

What am I going to do when I get on the job? How, what is kissing my boss’s behind, and then you push me over? What’s the difference? You know, things like that? How do I make a dentist appointment? I had no clue how to do that. I didn’t know that with the big old MediCal packet, all you’re supposed to do is just sign it and make sure __________ and send it back.

I had no clue, thinking like, oh my God, it’s like 1,000 papers. What am I supposed to do? Had no clue. Things like that. Making dentist appointments, making a doctor’s appointment. People like that, kids do not understand what they’re supposed to do. You know? They need more information when it comes to that, seriously. Life experience. You know, life choices, life skills.

(INAUDIBLE) I want to tell you about, we need to come more together. I’m tired of seeing everybody else on the commercials plus adults speaking for us. We need to start speaking for ourselves, because we don’t, we’re not going to get that far. (APPLAUSE)

I’ll tell you this. I love that we have the 24-hour line. That’s fine. But I’m not going to call somebody on the 24-hour line __________ talking to. I need somebody that I know that he knows what I’m going through and what’s going on. I know that, and that’s the bottom, and what I want to really, really, really, really express to everybody is that we need support. Forget all the extra crap; we need support. We don’t have support, we have nothing.

Because that’s when we fall down, Peace for Kids is here to pick me up. They let me know that it doesn’t matter, you have a choice. You’re not wrong. You just went about it a different way. You’re not a bad person. We can fix the situation. Let’s go about it this way. Peace for Kids has been a very big impact on my life, and I’m going to tell you guys that they’re a great organization, and we need an organizations out there like them. Thank you.


Rebecca Cohn: Before I introduce you, Jesus, when you’re done, maybe we can have Sayed, come up for a little minute and tell us about Peace for Kids. I think over the hearings we’ve gotten to know the California Youth Connection. Peace for Kids I think is probably __________. So when you’re done, we’ll ask him to say a few words. Jesus MacMillan was in foster care since he was three years old and is currently 17 years old.

Jesus MacMillan: Since birth. I was born. I was cursed at birth.

Rebecca Cohn: Jesus overcame the label of special education and stopped using all prescribed medications. He was trained in carpentry and fiber optics, and hopes to be involved in politics. That’s right, he’s going to come volunteer in my district office. We talked about that at lunch. So that he will be able to give back to the community, he’s a volunteer in Peace for Kids, and he is very grateful to his foster mother, who will always be the support that he needs. Jesus?

Jesus MacMillan: Hello. I’m Jesus. I’m 17 years old. And I will tell you about my life before I get deep into this foster care system stuff.

I was born in the system, for my mom __________. Luckily, at three days old, I had an old lady named Catherine Young, the greatest lady in the world, I don’t care what nobody in the system says about her, she’s the greatest, because I’m just like her. I’ve been calling her mom, so ________. They took me from her, from a misdefined word.

I acted up in school, so the principal wanted to take me into the office and figure out what was going on at home. Of course, you act up, you get whippings, but they asked me asked me the difference between whippings and beatings. I’m too young to know the difference. I didn’t know people __________ get beat. I never got beat. I’m (INAUDIBLE). No matter all the paperwork about me saying I got beat. I love my __________ to death. (INAUDIBLE)

But they took me away from the home I could truly say was home where I love my cousins, everybody. Away. I was going to war. I drift away through time. I don’t want nothing to do with them anymore. They don’t know me. I call them, you know what I’m talking about. You just face it. Through each other’s breathing (INAUDIBLE).

I’m 17, so I’m still going through a lot of these problems. I’ve still got a hole in my heart I’m trying to feel, but it’s hard. So on your way, __________ passion to help you overcome this system, because the system where I live is not going to die. Everybody I love __________ drug dealers and everybody else. We ain’t got no guidance, we ain’t got no, no nothing. We just stuck.

(INAUDIBLE) I live here, I live here, I live here. That’s it. I lived anywhere. Compton, L.A., Long Beach. I’ve been in plenty of places. And all that moving, I lost the sense of me. I don’t know what I like. I barely learned this year, that I really love politics and I really love people. And I want to give back.

(INAUDIBLE) this year thanks to my new guardian, Shanna Hill. She helped me. She was, she took me in as her own kid. She cared about me. She was persistent every time I messed up at school and every time stuff happened, she was there patting me on my back and trying to help me, guide me. But it’s hard to overcome that mindset, if I keep __________ telling us that we’re stupid. They put me in special education (APPLAUSE) I felt that I never needed it.

For real, for real, pills, medication, I ain’t never needed it. I think he held me back from where my mind should be. I should be like them, trying to go to Harvard. But that’s __________ held me down. (APPLAUSE)

We help __________ priorities and our roles, because we don’t got that where we live. Everything is just about survive. Now I’m trying to figure out plans, just in case I do get 18, how I’m going to be out there in that world. I’m trying to go looking for a job, but I don’t got no work experience. And without work experience you can’t get a job. You can’t get a job without work experience. So you see the cycle? It’s like, who came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s going continuously.

So the system, then you come up with programs to help us when we’re young, about 12, 14, to help us intern for the little community and stuff, to help us get some work experience. So we put in an application it makes us look better. And I believe that as foster kids, we should get the first swing at a job before any other civilian, because we don’t have nobody in our corner to push us, we don’t have nobody to teach us. We need that extra push, because we don’t got nobody to help us. The program, they help a little, but they’re like that. They’re wishy-washy. (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you very much, Jesus. (APPLAUSE)

Jesus MacMillan: (INAUDIBLE) all kind of heartbroken, or at least I __________.

Rebecca Cohn: We appreciate your time. Let me ask Sayed to come up for a minute. And please give us a quick description of who Peace for Kids is, and what Peace for Kids does. And while Sayed is coming up, let me just say that Loise Edwards was the Chief of Staff from the 47th office just passed me a note that I think I should make this announcement.

You know, I was very concerned when I came into the legislature about the high school exit exam. And as you know, this is the first year that all students must pass the high school exit exam in order to get their diploma. And the June ’06 class has to pass that exam. So I wrote a piece of legislation that would allow students to have alternatives, but the governor vetoed it. And a lawsuit was filed.

And so I have been particularly concerned about how the high school exit exam would impact foster children, who go from high school to high school. So I want to make the announcement that the judge has just decided that the high school exit exam will not apply.


Sometimes you do legislation. Sometimes you do it through court, sometimes you do it in the streets. (INAUDIBLE)

Speaker: Sometimes you get lucky.

Sayed: So I want to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about Peace for Kids. And my youth, my family has so eloquently spoken to what we do. And essentially we’re a community-based organization that helps our youth towards their own path to self-sufficiency by helping them do their own self-discovery to their dream, to evaluate their own particular understanding the gifts they innately have, helping to nurture those gifts, so that they can be self-sufficient as adults.

We work with youth of age five all the way up to 18 and beyond. Because no youth ever leaves our program. Brenda has been with us since she was 14.

Brenda: They won’t let me go.

Jesus MacMillan: When I quit, they wouldn’t let me go!


Sayed: And so we fundamentally believe what we’ve all talked about here today, what is most important, it’s not about the programs, is not about teaching life skills; they learn that through people. And if you have youth who are connected to people they’re connected to a program, then there’s success that’s in it. And that’s our responsibility as a community, is not to say responsibility. We thank them for their help. It’s our responsibility. The future is about making possibilities for our children. And making sure that they receive the future they deserve.


Since I’m up here and I know we’re about to start, I did have a question. I wanted to ask, and I’m sorry if I’m standing in front of other people here, but I know because so many of our youth have spoken to the issue of being homeless. And I’ve heard the other panels speak about it as well as an issue that we constantly deal with. And I know that there was a measure that was just voted on, the bond, which is going to address some of the financial issues around traditional housing. So can you speak to some of the provisions about that law?

Rebecca Cohn: Certainly. I’m very excited about it. And as I mentioned earlier, we’re going to need you to help us figure out when it gets to the implementation stage. What we did in the legislature a couple of weeks ago is pass a bill that will put on the ballot $50 million in a bond. The housing bond is bigger than $50 million, but there’s part of it that’s $50 million dedicated to housing, building transitional programs.

And so how that gets implemented, I think we’re going to need your expertise. That will be on the ballot in November. And so one thing that I do want to say is that for all of you young people that are 18 or getting close to being 18, you know, you need to register to vote. And there are (APPLAUSE) You need to register to vote, you need to get involved, because you’re actually going to have an opportunity to make your voices heard on that this November. And I heard a rumor that there’s somebody floating around that has cards to help you get registered to vote today.

Sayed: Yeah. And there will be some of our youth who actually have some of those cards. You can __________ very, very closely that this issue is important __________.

Rebecca Cohn: So we don’t expect any 18-year-old to walk out of here today who has not registered to vote.

Speaker: I’m already registered. I voted last year too.

Rebecca Cohn: All right. I appreciate that. So let me tell you how we’re going to do this. We’re now going to move into the public comment, and you will see that long row of folks up there. And so I’m going to ask our esteemed panel who just spoke if they could take their seats, and we’re going to call on people in threes to speak. This time, though, we’re going to have to — thank you. Thank you very much.


Daisy, Miranda, and Jesus. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to call on three people. You will have a limited time to speak, and Jessica right here will be the time keeper, okay? Because we really do want to get to everyone. We must end by four o’clock, and I believe we have about 40 minutes or so for testimony. So let me—


Sokum, Rita, and Maggie are coming up first. Sokum, Rita, and Maggie.


Did you do a DVD? Was there a DVD about you?

Sokum Mao: (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: I saw that. You did an excellent job. It was very powerful.

Sokum Mao: Thank you, madam.

Rebecca Cohn: Somebody’s asking for your autograph over there.


Sokum, Rita, and Maggie. And I’m sorry if I messed up anybody’s name. I remember you!

Sokum Mao: (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: Say that again?

Sokum Mao: Can I have my green card?

Rebecca Cohn: Your green card?

(LAUGHTER, TALKOVER) So Sokum, do you want to go first?

Sokum Mao: Hi, my name is Sokum Mao, and I __________ part of the program on campus, and the Guardian Scholars program. And—

Rebecca Cohn: (INAUDIBLE) finals this way? Did you study?

Sokum Mao: I did, actually.

Rebecca Cohn: Okay, go ahead.

Sokum Mao: Well, I’m part of the program, the Guardian Scholars program at San Francisco State University. And I’m an emancipated foster youth, I’m a former foster youth. And I graduated in 2005, so I’m a high school alum. I received my high school diploma. And after I graduated from high school, I got accepted into San Francisco State.

And I didn’t know where I was going to go, because I didn’t, my priority was finding housing. And I didn’t know where to go. So this program, this wonderful program called Guardian Scholars program, assisted me with that and found me housing, year-round housing and hooked up with my THP program staff, which is here today, her name is K.T., along with Sonji Sanchez, my Guardian Scholars (APPLAUSE), called me. They connected, and they brought, connected together and they moved me into my dorm over the summer of 2005 and made it happen. And transitioned me into the dorms, and I’ve been going to school since the summer of 2005, and you know, moving on throughout my college freshman year.

And this program assisted me with tutorial services, provided me with an advisor. So if I needed any help with my homework or things like that, they provided me with that help. It’s a wonderful program. This is a necessary tool for a former foster youth that’s going to college, you know, getting the education, and helping them through college.

So this is the program. This is the thing. This is the tool right here. For foster youth to be successful. So I’m just here today. And this really I’m trying to get this feel right here, AB-2489, this __________ bill, the bill that ensures California foster youth (APPLAUSE) access, this is seeing higher education. This program, the Guardian Scholars program, do just that.

So if we can have this program, we can replicated it throughout the whole state, that would be great. And this is, I just want to say one thing. This is a very rich state. And this state is __________ and things like that. It’s very wealthy. And I’m pretty sure we can have funding for this program. This program is provided (APPLAUSE) This program has been funded by the Stuart Foundation for three years only. And now that these three years are up, we need to find other funding to fund this program. So it’s very absolutely essential for the state to help and deal with this issue probably pay, probably at the beginning of the school and the start of the program, so that they can get, you know, kick off on budget money to the school. And—sorry. I’m trying to speak as fast as I can. You know what I’m talking about, so if you guys can do that.

And I had a question for the committee. Where does the state stand on this issue, this higher education, Guardian Scholars implementing throughout the state? I want to ask the committee that question.

Rebecca Cohn: Well, I think all of us support that and would like to see Guardian Scholars in every college, you know, four year as well as two year colleges. But one thing that we have to recognize is that you know, know from all of us here, this is a long-term commitment. We’re not going to get everything done this year. We’re going to get significant steps done. But in terms of what’s on our agenda in the future, know for sure that that’s absolutely there. So thank you very much.

Sokum Mao: Yes, you’re welcome. And I’m sorry. Oh, okay, I’m sorry. Thank you, that’s it.


Speaker: I just want to recognize that Sokum was with us at the capital just a couple of weeks ago as a recipient of the Guardian Scholar Program.


Maggie: Yeah, I’m Maggie, I’m feeling your ________. What was I talking about? What do I want to talk about first? I emancipated last summer.


I don’t have any money, but that’s nothing to talk about. Well, I emancipated by myself. I just said, you know, I’m done with the foster system, and I moved out on my own, I mean, with my savings. I mean, I tried to call my county worker and all that stuff, to, you know, help me, you know grant money and stuff no one called me back.

But yeah. Emancipating is the hardest thing about the world, because I’m alone and I have to pay rent on my own. And I don’t, I have a job, and I’m working with __________ project. But I mean, I only get $500 a month. And you know, that’s not going to pay for everything I need. And you know, plus school. And I don’t have my high school diploma yet. But I took my GED test today.

Speaker: Good.

Maggie: It’s pretty (APPLAUSE) but I mean it’s no problem. You know, I don’t worry, because I know that I got a lot of support, you know, in terms of, I’m pretty lucky in the system, but I know that a lot of other kids aren’t as lucky. And what I realized throughout the system is closed mouths don’t get fed. And you know, as a woman said up here, you know, she was up here saying how foster kids just need unite. And I strongly support that. Because you know, if no one says anything, then no one knows what’s going on.

You know, I went into group homes. Yesterday, and there’s this little girl you know, that __________ herself. And you know, it’s just not cool, right for the group home. You know, I didn’t know what to deal with—you know, it’s hard. That’s what I’m up here to say and that, you know, even though I emancipated and I know __________, I know that a lot of other kids that emancipated aren’t as lucky. Thank you.


Rita Timoa: Hey, I’m not the biggest __________. I’m such a shy person. My name is Rita Timoa. I am a former foster youth. I’m from San Francisco County. I currently reside in Oakland through the Health __________ that is a wonderful program. I love it so much. Like Maggie said, actually, I spent a year in ILSP and I thought that was excellent. You don’t hear much about that. I had so much fun in foster care. I really did. I’m serious. I really did.

You know, as you know, because I’m the oldest of six kids, and I’m also a teen mother, I have a three-year-old daughter, Zion, and you know, when we got into foster care, you know, social workers and everybody just jumped on our case. You know, it was one of those, make sure, I felt like they were really taking care of us.

So I really am arguing with my social workers, I had four social workers, when I emancipated. I emancipated December 13, 2005. I’ve been living on my own for five months. And you know it’s pretty cool. You know, I like it. I can’t remember why I came up here.


The reason why I came up here was because I wanted to say thank you to Marc for everything, for what all of you guys, for everything that you’ve done, especially you, because you got me sponsored and __________ you rock for that.


You know, and what else? And also I wanted to give a big shout out to San Francisco ILSP.


You know, ILSP staff, okay? Staff. You know, they have worked their butts off for the past couple months or so. But you know, within these last weeks, they have been, with making National Foster Care Month, and you have hey, you know what I’m saying? You know, we had the celebration on Saturday and that was the bomb right there. Seriously.

You know, they give you these tight shirts? And people walking around, sorry, but you know, walking around __________ like little blue __________ T-shirts. And walking these tight blue __________. So I just wanted to say that foster care for me was great, because if it wasn’t for foster care, I would not be going to college, I would not be living on my own. I wouldn’t be chillin’ with the staff at ILSP. You know what I’m saying? I wouldn’t be, you know, that’s my lifelong connection, because I know I can always go to __________ and say, you know, Paul, I love you. Can you adopt me? (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER) You know what I’m saying? But then it’s not just __________ it’s the staff there that you know they encourage the youth, you know what I’m saying? What we need though is—I’m so sorry. We need, seriously, we need, I think, encouragement like self-esteem classes, and people who that are for encouraging you, and you know, everything that they want in your life. And I just want to thank San Francisco ILSP. And they’re—I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

There are a good program because you know a lot has changed with the ILSP workshops. They’re actually taking the youth out there so they can get a more hands-on experience and things. You know, taking the kids to you know, kitchens where they can actually cut.

You know, take them to THPs where they can see what it’s like to have an option, decide if they emancipate early and not being eligible for services after, you know what I’m saying? So, you know, and also showing them the THPs, like the lease, you have the first place, and then you have this __________. And then you know, I really love them for everything that they’ve done..


Speaker: I’m just going to announce the next group that’s coming up, but I just, I’m going to need to leave, and I have a request of all the foster youth. If people could listen up for just a second, if you could write down this phone number: 916-319-2024. If you can find a way to call me, I am collecting stories of the Foster Youth of California for the book. And I would love to have your stories. 916-319-2024. I’m putting together a book, and I’d love to have all of your stories in it.


Rebecca Cohn: I want to call up the next group of speakers. Can I have Dean, Angelique, and Robert Beach? And thank you for these t-shirts. They look great. Thank you very much.

Speaker: Could you reread it please?

Rebecca Cohn: Dean, Angelique, and Robert Beach Dean?


Speaker: Dean’s not here anymore.

Rebecca Cohn: Oh, okay. Go right ahead, Robert.

Robert Beach: I just wanted to come here and tell you about this __________. I’m from San Mateo County. I was actually moved from Florida out here to San Mateo County to live with family members, and I had gone to a lot of different family placements, didn’t work out. I was like most other foster youth, and also transferring schools. I dropped out of high school, and then having to go back to State College to earn my GED. And while going through all of this, I had a lot of help from ILP. In San Francisco more, but also in San Mateo.

Right now, San Mateo actually has this THPP-plus program, where they pay your rent 100% for the first six months up to $1,000. So the first six months, then gradually it increases for the youth pay 25% every other six months, as long as they’re going to school at least 15 hours a week or work. They don’t mandate working and school. They’d rather have you in school than just doing both. Since your rent is being paid, you really don’t have any other expenses except cell phone and (LAUGHTER)

Yeah. So I mean, this program, I think, is giving me a lot of opportunity to go to school. Like I mentioned, in the culinary academy, I did get a 3.0 last semester.


And I don’t I could have done it without this program that San Mateo offered. Because I did go to a college before and dropped out twice. And so this is, well, actually I dropped out three times, three different colleges. So this will be the fourth college I went to, I actually have been there for this is actually my second quarter. And I’m actually doing really good. I like it. I’m not into wanting to move because I’ve been so used to moving.

I have been __________ California for I think, foster care for three months and I moved 13 times. So it’s not easy just being in the same apartment for, it’s been on six months. And I’m just thinking am I going to have to move in six months or am I not going to get my THPP-plus for the next six months? But from what, I mean, going to school and that, it really is helping me to become more of a productive adult.

I do work. I work at a real estate company. And I don’t, I only work two days a week, because I’d rather concentrate on my schooling. So it just gives me the opportunity to go to school full time, I’m a full-time student, and I do a lot of volunteering. I work with __________ California Youth Connection, and also I help San Mateo ILSP.

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you.


Rebecca Cohn: Angelique? Pull that a little closer, okay? Go ahead.

Angelique Brown: Hi, I’m Angelique Brown, 17 years old, and I’m a current foster youth. I live in (INAUDIBLE) I was (INAUDIBLE) I came up here to talk about when I get out of foster care, if I’m going to have support going to be here? I don’t know if I’m going to have support, when I get out. And—

Rebecca Cohn: What city are you in?

Angelique Brown: Hayward.

Rebecca Cohn: And are you in a program?

Angelique Brown: ILSP.

Rebecca Cohn: So are you planning to go to school or work?

Angelique Brown: Yeah, I go to school right now. I go to Brenkwitz High.

Speaker: (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: What did you say back there?

Speaker: (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: Say it once more?

Speaker: (INAUDIBLE)

Angelique Brown: Yeah, I think it’s not fair that you have to like (INAUDIBLE) we have to get a job and we don’t have work experience and we have to graduate high school. Because some of us just don’t want to go to school. So if they don’t want to go to school, they’re going to stay out there. (INAUDIBLE)


Rebecca Cohn: Well, I think some people might feel, myself included, that sometimes young folks might not want to go to school. But you know, it’s the role of the adult to help them stay on track. You know what I mean? You might not want to go to school, but part of our job is to stay on you, make sure you go to school.

Angelique Brown: Yeah, I go to school, I get a 4.0.



Rebecca Cohn: That’s good.

Angelique Brown: (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you.

Angelique Brown: You’re welcome.


Rebecca Cohn: Can I have Sarah York, Kiatta B., and Maria Ruiz come forward?


Sarah York: Hello everyone, good afternoon. My name is Sarah York. I’m 18 years old. I’m currently placed in a transitional housing placement program in East Palo Alto. Next month, I will graduate from high school and attend City College in the fall. I will also be participating in the housing __________ program.

Today I would really like to emphasize the need of housing permanence for today’s foster youth. I would like to mention that one of the people I have formed a permanent connection with, and I have been fortunate enough to have enter my life, my foster worker Carol __________. She’s right there.


She is really, she’s been extremely understanding and supportive to me throughout my transition for this emancipation. Carol has been a very consistent, caring, and helpful support in my life, which was very needed at this time of my life. I think it is necessary for all foster youth to have some form of permanence in their lives.

I would also like to touch on the need for more transitional housing placement programs for foster youth. Since I have lived at my THPP and benefited tremendously and gained more independence. And I’ve been supported financially, which has allowed me to be more focused on school and my future.

Lastly, I would also like to bring up employment and educational services, and why they’re so significant for foster youth. Since I have been receiving these services, they have helped me apply for financial aid, create a résumé, obtain multiple jobs, along with learning job skills, and pursuing college and higher education.

Sadly, a large percentage of foster youth do not pursue any type of college or higher education after emancipation. To me this is a very sad and disturbing reality. However, I believe if there were more after care services made accessible to emancipated foster youth, there would be more of us attending college and achieving success.

In conclusion, the reason I am speaking on these topics is to promote foster youth awareness, but also to offer input on how the system can maybe change to better service youth. Okay, thank you.


Kiatta B.: I want (INAUDIBLE) background, (INAUDIBLE) roots. I’m from East Palo Alto. The reason I was put in the foster care system is both my parents are drug addicts. And so my older brother that’s two years older than me. And they almost separated us, because they couldn’t find anyone to take me because I have a heart condition. And I already had heart surgery at four months, you know, __________ heart surgery in the future. And my grandmother knew someone in East Palo Alto that was taking care of foster care kids, and asked if I could stay with him.

And from there, we found a __________ just a series of foster, I mean, from then on, that was the longest place I’d ever stayed, was that foster home, which was five years. And I mean, in that one foster home alone, probably every aspect of abuse that you can imagine can happen to a child happened to my older brother and I there, so we had to leave there and just go to a whole bunch of different foster homes. By the time I was eight, I had been to about eight homes, and I stopped counting by then. Because it was, it wouldn’t stop like here, here, here, here. And the only thing that really liked, kept me sane through the whole process was just being with my older brother like for support, because you know, we were the black sheep of whatever home we were in, especially if the foster parents had their own kids, if they all have the same last name.

But him and I, we were good black sheep together. You know what I mean? And besides that, like writing poetry, listening to music, I fell in love with hip-hop music, and I was a bookworm, too.

My mother got, like with a drug program she got custody back when I was 11. But when she got custody back, there wasn’t like a follow-up thing, was coming like, okay, she went through this drug program, okay here’s all your kids back. And by then, it was like, my older brother and I, had a younger brother who in a foster home, and my little sister, who’s an infant. So she just goes from having like one kid, and then getting the third child back, all of a sudden having four kids. So that made her financially dependant on her boyfriend who was abusive towards her.

So it was kind of like my lifelong dream of living with my mother, you know, because I didn’t even get to meet her until I was nine. So there’s this dream that kind of got shot about __________ relationship and I wanted to leave, so I ran away from home when I was 14.

So from 14 to like 17, I was just kind of in and out of children’s shelters. So yeah, just in and out of high school. So I guess the first, I think I guess I’ll call it a proposition that I wanted to address was on SB-1576, transitional housing for emancipated foster care youth. And I’ve spent the majority of my senior year living in the shelter.

And in high school, I didn’t take my SATs because I thought that, I didn’t think I was going to graduate, or I didn’t think I was going to go to college. So I didn’t see a point in taking my SATs because I thought, you know, where am I going to go live? I can’t decide what college I’m going to if I don’t know where I’m going to live like that, so when my friends are going, “So what college?” I was worried about where I was going to live.

So THP comes along, and I moved in right after I graduated, and I stayed there for a year. I emancipated. I left there. They gave me $4,500, when I was there, which I bought my car with, and then I moved straight to THP and I stayed there for another year, left there, and they gave me $4,000 when I left, because that’s what I earned in program fees. From there, I put a down payment on an apartment. And I’ve been in an apartment for a year and nine months.

So I guess I’m just urging you guys to provide funding for transitional housing, just kind of maybe help like make a seamless transition between living in the foster care system, me in and out of the children’s shelter. You know, got not knowing how to go to adulthood to THP, where they teach you things like how to grocery shop and write grants and scholarships to college.

And the other thing I really wanted to address that was important to me was AB-1983, which is extended foster care services from 18 to 24 for MediCal. For someone like me, who has a heart condition, I’m sorry, I have __________. For someone like me who has a heart condition, I got to have four open heart surgeries: one at four months, four years, 11 years, and 21 years old.

And you know, I can’t understand how they can cut something off like that. I just made 21, and at this point, I’m right now, I still have MediCal. I don’t know why they didn’t cut it off after my 21st birthday, but it hasn’t been cut off. And I just __________ before last, I went to the emergency room, because my heart was acting up. And it’s kind of a scary thing knowing that any moment you can go into the emergency room, they can tell you, well, you don’t have insurance, you don’t have MediCal, and it not being addressed. You know especially for someone like me who has an ongoing heart condition, and has to maintain appointments and stuff.

I’ve been at Stanford since I was a baby, so I want to urge you guys to extend medical services to kids and to foster care youths to 24, and definitely the extended foster care services. If it weren’t for the THP program I wouldn’t be where I am. And if it wasn’t for San Mateo’s housing program, I wouldn’t have been able to recover and just focus on school. I would have had to jump straight from heart surgery recovery and into __________ start working to pay rent.

You know, because I have a good housing program, so I’m thankful to the housing program, and it’s just something I really want you guys, to urge you, I’m short of time, but I have a lot more I want to tell you, but those are the two really important things for me, is the transitional housing for me __________ foster youth, and the extended MediCal services. I can’t go to Planned Parenthood and ask to see a cardiologist.


Oh, sorry, I want to thank Sonia House, who’s up there. I don’t know where she’s at. Sonia House, because she really stuck with me through the heart thing (APPLAUSE) she was like at my bedside when I was, like __________ came out of surgery, I was still under anesthesia, and she was at my bedside. So I really count on, just the people that have supported me in the system. So thank you so much.

Rebecca Cohn: Maria Ruiz?

Maria Ruiz: Hi, everyone. My name is Maria. And I’m a former foster youth from San Mateo County. I’m currently in community college and living on my, I’m a math major. And working on becoming a teacher. And also I started a small world (INAUDIBLE) for math students as well as __________ more than I thought it would.

And I’m here today with three very important people to me that I would love to __________. My mom, which I used to call foster mom. And my foster dad, which is now Dad. And my FGM, which is also known as my fairy godmother. So these three people have been there no matter what. I didn’t realize these people would be so important to me today.

And I, this past year has been completely up and down. It’s just the scariest time I think I’ve ever gone through. And I went to the point that I lost what I thought was my family, which a boyfriend, because I didn’t know anything else. And I had been with that person off and on for five years. And that person became my roommate and I left the system. And I felt that, this is great. I’ve been trained so well, because I was in transitional housing before I emancipated. I said, I can do this. I’ve been trained to know how to live on my own. And, so I __________ I had the support from my boyfriend.

And well, that crashed and burned. And then I found myself working three jobs, going to school full time so I can just get a full benefit from financial aid, and I couldn’t do it. Emotionally, it caught up with me. Mentally and physically I was getting sick. I couldn’t handle it all of that. So I was afraid to ask my foster parents, could I go back, my parents, to go back. And my FGM asked me what my wish was. And I told her, it was to go back and focus on school, and not have work be a priority.

So they said, “Okay,” and took me in. And then a while later, I felt a lot better being there, I felt like I was home. And I had to go back on my own. I did that, and then the THP-plus kicked in. That was brand new, and I was very happy to get that. It was a huge stress reliever.

So I’m on that now, and it’s been helping a lot. I’m back at school. I feel a lot better going there. And recently I was able to go back home to my biological extended family. And I spoke to them, I kind of realized how much, I heard what I needed to hear when I got there. I heard that they would take care of me, and they wanted me. And I had never realized, like, I look back at California, it was like, I’ve got to move out here, because __________ to do this. And I maxed out her credit card just to go because I knew I needed it.

And then I came back and I realized well, I have a huge family here. They’re not blood relatives, but they love me here, and they want me. And they’re my cheerleaders no matter what.

And so I just, I have a younger brother in the system, and I just want him to know that as well, that he’s creating a family now that he won’t ever lose. So just to like, you won’t realize it then, but you will when you get out. So that’s what I was permanent _______.


Rebecca Cohn: I’d like to call forward a couple of other speakers. Brian Youngblood and Vanessa. Thank you very much again. And let me just say that I think we’re having a little bit of a problem here, because I know that people came here from all over the state, and there are some folks who flew here, I believe Brian is one of them, from Orange County and other places. And we want to have as many people speak as possible. Okay? So let me call forward Brian Youngblood and Vanessa.

We also will reread these cards, don’t always know where people are coming from, so we don’t know who came from far away. Brian Youngblood.

Brian Youngblood: I just want to, everybody __________ stories, but I’m going to just thank you for everything that you’ve provided us with. I mean, I consider myself lucky because I was only at one foster home. I got to live with my sisters and my niece. I was able to live in a good neighborhood where I can go to high school and __________ with drugs or gangs. And now I’m able to go to transitional housing, and all the services I have is just, I know, it’s not perfect, I understand that, but I mean, nobody’s perfect. So it just takes time and understanding to really try, and I appreciate that you’re doing all this to help us out. And that’s all I have to say. Thank you.


Rebecca Cohn: Vanessa?

Vanessa Vargas: Hi, my name is Vanessa Vargas, and I’m also a former foster youth. I am now 29 years old, and I know that a lot of times you hear youth talking about when they’re in the system. And I struggled a lot. If you want to know more about my story, you can look at the San Francisco Chronicle and read it today (LAUGHTER). So you can get there __________. So I won’t get into my personal history. But yes, I did have a lot of different changes of placements.

And I went ahead and pursued my goals and attained a higher education. It was very difficult. Very difficult. That’s another thing: when I had received my bachelor’s degree in political science, that was one of them, my second bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies, and then I went ahead and received my master’s and all from San Francisco State University.

When I flew, I’m here today to let you know that even though I am one of the success stories, the things that I had to go through I shouldn’t have gone through. When I was in the system, I had more than six different changes of placement. Back then, there was no transitional housing programs. So with the young women that were living in the group homes with me, what we knew was that we just needed to move out with our partners, our boyfriends.

That exposed us to different domestic violence. I got pregnant at a very young age. I have a beautiful nine-year-old daughter. Ariana, I love you. But it’s very simple: we need more money to provide housing programs, transitional housing programs, more money for Guardian Scholars programs, more money to provide mental health services. Because these situations are very haunting for the youth.

And I’m very proud to say that now I am working as a social worker in San Mateo County. And being able to provide these different services that I have kids on my case load in different counties, and that you know the ILSP programs aren’t equivalent to the ones that, you know, the more money the county has, the more services they’re able to provide. These other counties that had a different school districts that aren’t providing the equivalent amount of education that a kid need. The ILSP programs are also not equivalent. It’s just like a table for one person, and that’s it.

So if there can be any state regulations that have ILSP, all of ILSPs across the state of California being able to provide equivalent services for all these kids, that’s the way to move. Also transitional housing programs, they need more money. I heard another young woman say MediCal, they can be extended for a bigger age, and then I know my time is up. Thank you.

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

Could I please have Tyron Barnes, Sarah—?


Rebecca Cohn: Thank you. Tangee, and Rachel? Oh, I’m sorry. And someone (INAUDIBLE).

Speaker: I want to thank everybody for your attendance today and for all of your participation for making this as valuable of an experience as this has been. I want to thank our chairwoman of the committee, Karen Vass, for her extraordinary vision and her endless energy and sincerity in addressing greatly our foster care system. I have to get a little bit of work done before our Independent City begins. At 4:30 we’re going to be — yes, I believe everybody knows.

Rebecca Cohn: (INAUDIBLE)

Speaker: I’m going to, this is an ILSP project. (APPLAUSE) I’m honored to take on the role of Mayor of Independent City, and we’re going to live the experience of transition from 4:30 till 8:30 and address all of the day to day challenges of emancipating youth. So you’re all welcome, you’re all invited, and I hope you can all get a sense of what’s it’s like to live in a city where I’m mayor.


Rebecca Cohn: That would be a very good city. And with that, because we don’t want to cut into that time as well, we’ll probably only have time for this panel and maybe two more, okay? And then we’ll need to leave after that point and have folks be able to move over to the activity that __________ was talking about.

Tyron Barnes: Again, my name is Tyron. My 22 years old, and I’m a current Guardian Scholar at Cal State University Bulletin. And you know, I’m just very thankful for the proposal __________ bills, that list all of the 24 proposals for, you know, sustained foster youth and solutions to our problems. You know, if I didn’t have the right kind of program, I would never have been introduced to my family. You know, I’m very thankful for that, and I’m thankful for you guys’ support you know, that (INAUDIBLE).

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

Sarah: I’m Sarah, also a Guardian Scholar. And I just want to let you guys know a little bit about how good we’re doing as a scholarship. We have 40 current students, 36 alumni, and also like the head of the alumni group. And I just wanted to let you know our alumni, they’ve moved onto great occupations. They have beautiful families. They’re doing, they’re just doing really good. They’re being productive members of society.

And I want to let you know that it’s more than just that, though. It helps you really move on with your life, the scholarship. It really does. It helps you just grow as a person, and become independent and feel what stability really is.

And so my recommendation really would be that we make Guardian Scholars go to all levels: community college, universities, graduate school. Because I myself, I’m a success story of the scholarship. I gotten on the Dean’s List three times. I’m going to be a part of the Honors Society at the end of the semester, and I intend to go onto graduate school. But there’s my problem: I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it. So even if we can get that to go up to those levels, that would be great too.


Candy: And I’m Candy. I just wanted to say, because people have been mentioning Guardian Scholars program, I am a product of the program. I graduate this May, in a couple of weeks __________ four year degree in communications. And it’s good to have Guardian Scholars because also in the summertime, they get $2,500, they pay for rent and they pay for classes. So because of that, you can graduate in four years.

And also with the program, they provide homes. I know for some __________ that are in college. When it’s a weekend time, they all know where they’re going. For us, we get to go to the __________ or go to one of our fellow Guardian Scholars or get somewhere else to go. So fund that program, it made my college dream come true. I really didn’t have to pay for much of anything. Just trying to be a better person. Thank you.


Speaker: Hi. My name is __________ I’m also a Guardian Scholar at Cal State University Fullerton __________. I feel that I was privileged being involved in foster system from the time I was 15 till I was 18. I only had two places in that time frame. It takes a lot of adversity, because of my sexual orientation, my social workers lied to me, telling me I had to get placements, stuff like that.

In regard to the scholarship, through my social worker, she actually lied to me and told me that all the paperwork was done. A week before the deadline __________ the director of the program called me asking me why nothing has been turned in for me. I check my responsibility, put all the paperwork, got in. You know, they give you lots of money, they’re up there constantly on you, making sure that you’re doing well in class.

My first semester, I didn’t do very well. I had suffered from anxiety, thought that I had just terrified that my career choice, that it wouldn’t be able to support me later on in life. And Jenny picked me back up, the program picked me back up and kept me on track. If I didn’t have Guardian Scholars, I probably would be in community college, but I don’t think I would have made it past the first semester. Work was taking over my life, but I was just so scared that I wasn’t making the right decision. So that’s all.

Rebecca Cohn: Thank you.


Can I please have __________ Richard, Crystal McCoy, and Melinda Hunt? And I just hope before you leave and those young people that are still here, that you know how proud all of us are of you and of your success, and just can’t even imagine the challenges that you’ve gone through. You’ve persevered, and we’re really looking forward to see what you can do in the future. Thank you.


Crystal McCoy: I’m __________. My name is Crystal McCoy, and on June 6th, I will graduate from Cal State Hayward with a 3.2. My name is Crystal McCoy, and on June 10th, I will be graduating from University of Hayward on June 6th, I said that, with a degree in political science and human development. I plan to go on and study law at Hayward University. These things were not possible without the support of my ILP program. I graduated from the ILP program in Alameda, June 1, 2002.

Since then, that program has offered so many invaluable services to me: food planning, assistance on scholarships, counseling, mentorship, independent __________ come back and make community service hours. Just so many things that that program has offered that is truly, truly invaluable.

So with that understanding, what I want to attest you now is, understanding the true urgency of permanent housing or assisted housing after emancipation. It’s similar to when you first come into the foster care system, in my opinion. When you first go into the foster care system, especially when you come in at late ages, you’re confused, you don’t know what’s going on. You have all these people pulling you in different ways and trying to help you, but none of them taking the time that’s needed to speak with you and make sure that you understand what’s going on. And it’s really a fragile stage. And lots of steps are taken to help you be __________ into the foster care system.

But when you turn 18, the same thing happens again. You’re scared, you’re fragile, you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what steps to take. And there’s all these people pulling you in different ways. Only this time, they’re not as concerned with how you’re going to come out. They’re more concerned with you getting out.

And I think that there needs to be more steps taken to ensure that when you turn 18, they have someone who really want to help them, and not someone who’s just trying to turn their paperwork over. Housing without, you can’t really achieve education or job placement or internships or any of that without housing. I really feel like housing is the foundation for picking everything up for you to be able to be prosperous.

It does not begin when you’re 18. It does not end with the THP program. It’s after that. It’s budgeting. I happen to be a member of a wonderful program called __________ and they budget. They __________ they make sure you know how to clean up and how to wash and do all that kind of stuff. And they also allowed me to be able to go to school.

Without housing, a lot of things that they have access to, it falls by the wayside. You can go to school. You can get financial aid, but not if you got nowhere to live. You know, you can work, but not if you don’t have anywhere to live. So to me, housing is one of the most important things that I would like to stress to you, is making sure that foster youth can have housing. And not just any housing: housing that you’d want for your children. Housing that you want your daughter to stay at. Nobody wants to live in Motel 6 on __________.

So make sure they have housing, because without that, they can’t do as much as they possibly could. Thank you.



Danielle’s story

Danielle Thompson tells her story:
Adapted from: Select Committee on Foster Care: May 12, 2006 Public Hearing on Foster Care
Okay so first of all, to all my homies (LAUGHTER) I’d like to thank you (LAUGHTER). I would like to thank you all for having us here. I would like to thank you guys for having us be able to speak on the issues that need to be faced: permanency, education, and transitional housing.

So first I’m going to start out. So my name is Danielle Thompson. I’m 20 years old, and I currently reside in San Francisco, California, which I love. AB-408, which was passed in 2003, and AB-1412, which was passed in 2005, requires social workers should ask foster youth about adult relationships that are important to them, and not only take action to support and maintain those relationships.

However, most of the youth are still not being engaged in identifying people that could be potential permanency options. I found my permanent connection while in the foster care system, not knowing that it was permanency. He got me through the tough time and tried to prepare me for the world I am in today. We had our ups and downs and we shared many laughters.

When deciding to venture out on my own, he said he would help me, and he did. I moved to San Francisco, and I lost contact with my permanent connection. I want to say permanency is not meant to last. Recently, I just had a crisis with my transitional housing. Yes, everyone, I still face issues in transitional housing.

I was at a breaking point in my transitional housing, and I really couldn’t call my permanent connection. Instead, while crying, my phone rang, and a networking buddy of mine—I do media work—I answered the phone, and he’s like, he’s talking to me, and he’s like, “Are you okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” And immediately offers me money, thinking that I have financial problems.

And I say no. Instead, he comes out of his busy job, and he works for AC Transit, you know, a really busy job in Oakland, California, and drives from Oakland to San Francisco to come and speak to me and just help me solve my problem, takes me to Starbucks, and you know, we just have like this, you know we’re on this a caffeine high.

We had the funniest conversation. And then you know, talking about my problem, and really, really, it really helped me. Because I didn’t have, I had people to turn to, but it just wasn’t working, and all he really did was listen to me. And that’s what I really needed, someone to just listen to my problems that I’d been keeping in for seven months living in San Francisco.

All the issues I face, youth who are aging out of the system will have to go through. I still struggle with homeless, separating from my family, dropping out of school. In less than two years that I had emancipated from the system, I was homeless five times. I really didn’t have a place to call home or a place to at least finish school.

I lost contact with my sisters and my whole family. Losing my family while going through—see if I’m going to cry, because my family’s up there. Okay. Losing—

Rebecca Cohn: Take your time. And don’t worry about it if you have to cry. We’ll probably cry too.

Unnamed Permanent Connection: I love you.

Danielle Thompson: I love you too. Losing my family going through these hard times made my situation worse. I remember growing up with my brothers and sisters and sharing all these secrets with them. I have not told my sisters these secrets because they’re so far away.

Siblings are important to have while in the foster care system, because they are the only permanent connection that you have.

(She cries, and Assemblyman Mark Leno hands her his handkerchief)

Oh my God, he gave me his hanky!


Siblings are important to have all in the foster care system, because it is the only permanent connection we have. So we want to make sure that those connections stay alive. I feel like if I had that permanent connection, then I wouldn’t have moved so much.

We as youth need to break the cycle of pushing away when help is being offered. And as adults, we need to not give up on our youth. They are not only our issues for today, but for the future. Permanency is important for all of you to have. No youth should have to live in this world without a lifelong connection or a caring adult in their life. So I have come up with a couple of recommendations as a young person who still struggles with life. (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: (INAUDIBLE)

Danielle Thompson: First, I feel we should have stronger enforcement with AB-408 and 1412. Second, siblings are important to have a connection with while in the system. So why break what is already ripped apart from us? Third, I had experienced multiple housing programs. Although I appreciate all the support, and the safe places from the streets, there are a lot of downfalls in these programs.

A lot of them still carry the way of a group home. This hinders our growth as young adults. It keeps us in this institutionalized mentality. We don’t need housing with rules and regulations. We need housing that is going to give us independence and stability.

For other youth stories from the hearing, click here.

Youth Profile:Joseph-working hard to achieve his dreams


Joseph learned about First Place from his social worker. He then enrolled in the Economic Literacy class, which he said was a great learning experience. When he moved into his own apartment, he said he felt like he was taking responsibility for his future. “Moving into my apartment was a really exciting time in my life,” Joseph said. “I really enjoyed getting my place all set up, and I started college at the same time. I felt like I was maturing.”
Joseph said that without First Place, focusing on his education goals would be a much
greater challenge. Joseph is an extremely busy young man. He is taking a full load
(15 units) of classes at Contra Costa Community College, and works up to 40 hours a week at Food Max operating a forklift in the warehouse. His days begin at 7:00 a.m. and end at 11:30 p.m.—every day. Joseph says the reason he pushes himself so hard is
because of the difficulties he faced early in his life. He and his brothers lived in foster care placements from the time they were young boys – Joseph says he lived in 12 foster care homes altogether. Although their childhoods were more turbulent than most, Joseph and
his brothers have remained close, a fact for which he says is he extremely grateful. He says the challenges he dealt with caused him to set high goals for himself to have a successful future—and that makes the long days all worth it. Joseph also has a history of civic engagement, and has a strong sense of the importance of volunteerism. In
high school, Joseph traveled to Mexico with a youth group during his spring break to help build houses for poverty-stricken villages. He also said that someday he would like to volunteer with the Big Brothers program. Joseph is currently taking classes to earn his
Associate’s Degree and eventually would like to be a firefighter. “I’ve always wanted to do a job where I could help people and give back to my community,” Joseph said.

Taken from: First Place Fund for Youth Summer Newsletter, 2006 

Foster Father Awarded Annual Fatherhood Award

On June 3, 2006, Paul Hackleman, a San Mateo County foster parent, was presented with the Father of the Year Award by the San Mateo County Fatherhood Collaborative. Paul was presented the award by his foster son at the Collaborative’s annual celebration attended by over 500 participants.

A few years ago, Paul’s children had left for jobs and college and he and his wife, Rebecca were enjoying the status of being “empty nesters.” That all changed three years ago when the pastor in his church read the congregation a letter from a San Mateo County social worker who was desperately trying to find a home for a youth.

The young man’s foster mother, whom he was very attached to, had suffered a serious stroke, requiring him to be removed from her home. The social worker was motivated by the young mans pleas to keep him with his Burlingame friends and peer group as they transitioned from junior to senior high.

Fortunately, she found those special foster parents, Paul and Rebecca, and the youth, who will soon be a senior in high school, is flourishing. Paul Hacklemean will always be a Father of the Year in the eyes of this young man who realized his dream of remaining in Burlingame and moving on with his fellow Spartans.

Helping Kids Via Increased Funding

Caseload Reduction and Program Improvement
Increases funding by $98 million ($68 million state General Fund) in ongoing investments to improve outcomes of foster children and youth.

Kinship Care Parity
Increases funding by $8 million (state General Fund) to provide kin care providers additional support in a specialized care increment to meet a child’s special needs and clothing allowance currently only available in foster care placement. Also extends eligibility for kin care assistance to certain probation youth who have been living with a relative for at least 12 months.

Kinship Support Services Program (KSSP)
Approves the $2.5 million (state General Fund) proposed in the Governor’s Budget to expand Kinship Support Services and allow all counties to apply for KSSP funding.

Housing for Emancipated Youth
Increases funding for the Transitional Housing Placement Program Plus by $4 million (state General Fund) by eliminating the county share of cost for the program.

Education for Foster Children and Youth
Expands the Foster Youth Services Education Program statewide to foster children and youth in all types of placements and funds this with $8.2 million (state General Fund).

Higher Education for Foster Youth
Increases funding by $5.7 million (state General Fund) to fund additional financial aid for foster youth attending two-year or four-year colleges under the Chafee Scholarship program. This increase should fully fund all eligible foster youth.

Adoption of Hard-to-Place Youth
Increases funding by $4 million (state General Fund) above the $6.3 million (state General Fund) in the Governor’s proposed budget in January for efforts to help with the adoption children and youth over age 9.

Approves $12.2 million ($7.1 million state General Fund) proposed in the Governor’s Budget to hire additional state and county adoptions caseworkers.

Dependency Drug Courts
Increase funding for Dependency Drug Courts by $3 million (state General Fund) above the Governor’s May Revision amount of $2.1 million (state General Fund) to expand the program to additional counties.

IV-E Waiver
Approves $25.5 million ($10 million state General Fund) proposed in the Governor’s May Revision to facilitate county participation in the State’s new pilot project which caps federal funding in a flexible block grant to be used for a broad array of services, including upfront prevention. These funds may also be used for Program Improvement activities.

When did love happen?

My oldest daughter is adopted. She was four days old when we arrived at the hospital to pick her up. And if ten pounds, ten ounces and 23 inches tall wasn’t enough to astonish me, the idea of looking down at a baby I’d never seen before and trying to convince myself that she was my daughter.

“You’re my daughter. You’re my daughter.” I whispered to myself as I looked down at her. It didn’t register. Didn’t seem real. Nor did loving her seem real. How can you love someone you just met? I changes her faded hospital clothes into a vibrant pink romper, and whisked her home.

Did I love her at that moment? No. But somehow, love happened in that first week she lived with us. Suddenly we went from three people living in a flat in San Francisco to a family. A mom. A dad. And a baby girl named Elizabeth.