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Agencies must work together to place foster kids. This bill will help

Foster children play in bounce houses during an 2015 event at Redeemer Church in downtown Modesto that gives foster parents a date night.
Foster children play in bounce houses during an 2015 event at Redeemer Church in downtown Modesto that gives foster parents a date night. jwestberg@modbee.com

Children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect have experienced unimaginable trauma that will follow them throughout their lives. All these children need specialized care and services to help them heal.

But there is a small subset of California’s 60,000 foster children who require even greater attention and care, whose special needs and intense service requirements often don’t fit into an easy placement solution.

When the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 403 in 2015, the goal was simple: better delivery of services and home-based care for foster children. Not quite two years into implementing the reform, the state and county agencies are working tirelessly to get it right. But examples of high-need, severely traumatized youth continue to rise up.

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For instance, a child with severe mental health and developmental disabilities may not require hospitalization, but also can’t be placed at home or with a relative because of previous threats they’ve made against their parents. They also can’t be placed in juvenile detention facilities until they commit or attempt to commit harm, and there may not be any short-term residential placements available in the county. These children are further traumatized every time a placement doesn’t work out.

The Legislature asked counties how we can better serve these children. Their answer is AB 2083.

Sponsored by the County Welfare Directors Association and drafted with input from service providers, county officials and foster care workers, AB 2083 creates a framework for model state and county agreements to place and provide services for these high-needs youth. This will help local officials better coordinate with each other and with state officials. The agreements will be shared so others can benefit.

Ken Cooley new.jpg
Ken Cooley

Our highest-need children deserve the same stable placements as any other child in foster care. We cannot continue to allow placements to end in failure because county, state, and other agencies are unable to coordinate services. It’s our problem, but it is these children who suffer the consequences.

Gov. Brown has made the realignment of services at the local level a tenet of his administration. Counties put forth AB 2083 because they know what they need best to do their jobs; advocates for children support the bill because they hear first-hand how traumatizing it is when things go wrong. I urge the governor to listen to them and sign AB 2083.

Ken Cooley, a Rancho Cordova Democrat, represents the 8th state Assembly District and wrote this article on behalf of the County Welfare Directors Association of California. He can be contacted at Assemblyman.Cooley@assembly.ca.gov.

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