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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

August, 2007



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Bill to Help Disabled Foster Youth
By Submission

(SACRAMENTO, CA) In July, the Senate Human Services Committee passed a bill authored by Assembly member Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, to help disabled foster youth.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1331 passed with a vote of 4-1 and moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further review.

"Foster youth face many challenges, especially those living with severe physical and mental disabilities," said Evans. "At a minimum, we must assure that they get the assistance already available to them. This bill will help us do that."

AB 1331 requires county child welfare agencies to screen all foster youth at age 161/2 for a mental or physical disability and assist them in applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federal income supplement program for the disabled which provides a monthly cash benefit. The goal is to have SSI in place for eligible youth upon emancipation. To help meet this goal, the bill allows youth with pending SSI applications to remain in foster care past their 18th birthday until their applications are processed.

"Disabled foster youth are entitled to receive this assistance," said Evans. "But they need help applying for it."

An estimated 15 percent of foster youth live with a serious physical or mental disability. There are nearly 80,000 children in California's foster care system. Each year, over 4,000 youth age out of foster care when they turn age 18.

"Without these benefits, disabled foster youth are at significantly greater risk for homelessness, unemployment, and chronic physical and mental health problems," added Evans.

SSI benefits are designed to provide a minimum level of monthly income to disabled persons and families with disabled children who have limited incomes. The federal monthly grant for an individual is $623. SSI eligibility triggers a State Supplemental Payment (SSP) benefit of $223 for an individual, for a total of $856 per month.

Sixty five percent of foster youth emancipate from state care without a place to live. Fifty one percent are unemployed. Less than 3 percent attend college. Foster youth with disabilities are particularly vulnerable and at greater risk.

AB 1331 is sponsored by the John Burton Foundation, the County Welfare Directors Association, the Public Interest Law Project, and Alliance for Children's Rights. Further information about AB 1331 is available online at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov.



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