SACRAMENTO /California Newswire/ — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a package of legislation focused on expanding and promoting adoption opportunities and increasing services for children in California’s foster care system. The bills signed into law will create a food stamp program to assist youth transitioning out of the foster care system and help provide housing for former foster youth working toward a higher education degree. The legislation also ensures that California’s foster care system will continue to have the resources necessary to provide the valuable services these children depend on and helps older foster children secure a safe and stable living environment.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment and this legislation will expand adoption programs and services to ensure that opportunity for California’s foster children,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “It is also important to provide youth with the right tools when they transition out of foster care and these bills help make that possible by improving their access to quality education and providing them with resources to be successful as independent adults.”
The Governor announced that he has signed the following six bills:
· AB260 by Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) that will require that a licensed person shall not make any false, deceptive or misleading statement or representation, require a mortgage broker to receive the same compensation for providing mortgage brokerage services whether paid by a lender, borrower or a third party and will prohibit a mortgage broker from steering a borrower to accept a loan at higher cost.
· AB 719 by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) to create a 12-month transitional food stamp demonstration project that grants federally funded food stamps to foster youth for one year after their eighteenth birthday, when they age-out of the foster care system and no longer qualify for state aid.
· AB 1393 by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) to require the University of California, the California State University and California Community Colleges to give priority for on-campus housing to emancipated foster youth.
· AB 295 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) to extend the Older Youth Adoption pilot project for six months until June 30, 2010 to provide participating pilot counties with sufficient time to demonstrate the effectiveness of pre-adoption and post-adoption services for older youth who have been in the system over 18 months and are living in group homes or non-related foster families.
· AB 167 by Assemblymember Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) to exempt a foster youth who transfers from a new school during the eleventh or twelfth grade from completing locally-imposed course requirements that exceed minimum state standards, if those local requirements would prevent the student from graduating while he or she remains eligible for foster care.
· AB 669 by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) to exempt current or former foster youth age 19 years or under from California State University, University of California and California Community Colleges in-state residency requirements for tuition and fees.
· AB 1325 by Assemblymember Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) to create an alternative option to the definition of “traditional adoption,” in the case of adopting a Native American child. In traditional adoption, termination of parental rights of the biological parents must occur for a Native American child to be adopted. Unfortunately, termination of parental rights can be detrimental to Native American cultures. This bill will add the option of Customary Adoption. Customary Adoption is defined as “a traditional tribal practice recognized by the community which gives a child a permanent parent-child relationship with someone other than the child’s birth parent.”
In addition, the Governor signed a series of foster care-related bills that make changes to existing state laws to ensure that California continues to receive important federal funding to maintain child welfare services:
· SB 597 by Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) to establish the development of a plan for the ongoing oversight and coordination of health care services for foster youth and the development of a personalized transition plan for a foster youth in the 90-day period before he or she ages out of foster care.
· AB 154 by Assemblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) to specify that any savings in state funds attained from an increase in federal funding for adoption services be reinvested in the foster care and adoption service system. The bill also requires adoption agencies to inform prospective adoptive parents of their potential eligibility for federal and state adoption tax credits.
· AB 595 also by Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) to tighten requirements for approving criminal background checks for foster care family homes licensing in an effort to prohibit persons convicted of specific offenses from becoming foster or adoptive parents.
· AB 665 by Assemblymember Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont) to broaden the use of the federal adoption incentive awards that are received by the state as a result of increased adoptions of older children to include other legal permanency options available to older foster youth in order to increase the opportunities for these youth to be placed in stable homes. Other legal permanency options include legal adoption, relative guardianship and reunification services when those services were previously terminated.
· AB 938 by the Committee on Judiciary to require that when a child is removed from his or her parents and placed in foster care, the child’s social worker must within 30 days, conduct an investigation to identify and locate the child’s adult relatives and notify them that the child has been removed from his or her parents’ home.
The Governor also signed the following two child welfare-related bills:
· AB 488 by Assemblymember Norma Torres (D-Pomona) to authorize the Department of Social Services to renew or extend beyond a three-year time period specified performance agreements with private, nonprofit agencies that provide child welfare services. This bill also requires the county or private nonprofit agency to fund an independent evaluation of the agency’s performance.
· SB 118 also by Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) to direct counties to include information about incarcerated parents who receive services required by the court to reunify that parent with his/her children.