Business & Economy

New law makes 21 age limit for Calif's foster care system

Foster youths Zaneta Bell, Clarence Wade, Lola Bell, and Avery Bankston
Foster youths Zaneta Bell, Clarence Wade, Lola Bell, and Avery Bankston
Courtesy: Alliance for Children's Rights

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From now on, California will keep young people in foster care until they turn 21. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held a ceremonial signing of Assembly Bill 12 in Los Angeles Wednesday.

The governor signed the bill on the campus of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services. He said that from now on, foster care kids won’t have to worry about aging out of the system when they turn 18.

"They need help. It’s ludicrous to think that at the age of 18, you can take care of yourself," said Schwarzenegger.

That applies to all kids, he said, whether they’re in foster care or not. The governor called the foster care extension a partnership.

"The kids have to take care of things, and also we have to take care of things," he said. "We for instance continue giving them financial and social support, which is important for them, but they in return have to go to school, or go to work and meet regularly with their case workers. But let me tell you something: this is the greatest investment that we can make in our state."

He referred to study results that say for every dollar the state invests in foster care, it saves 2 and a half dollars in the future. Former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass co-wrote the legislation. The Los Angeles Democrat and Congressional candidate said the economic recession has given rise to a common expression: Boomerang Kids.”

"Young people forced by the economy to return to their parents’ home and support," said Bass. "But what happens to a boomerang that doesn’t have a place to go back to? It just gets thrown away."

A combination of state and federal money will pay for the three extra years foster kids can spend in the system.

Click on the image below to hear the issues from the perspective of former foster care youth