California's Foster Care Program at Risk Due to Budget Cuts

March 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Because of the budget crisis, some of California's most vulnerable young people, kids who've already had some tough breaks, are on the verge of enduring another one. Hundreds of foster children could be evicted.

Foster kids become the state's responsibility because they are either abused or neglected. Now a program that helps them become successful adults is about to let them out on the streets.

For nearly a decade, the state of California has provided transitional housing for foster kids who age out of the foster care system on their 18th birthday.

The program is credited with improving young adult lives by reducing homelessness, getting them to finish school, finding jobs and keeping them out of jail.

For Stacy Bagsby, it's a lifesaver. Her apartment is sparse, but with no family, who knows where she'd be.

"I don't know. Somewhere down the drain, if I didn't have this program. I'm thankful that I'm here," she said.

About 1,400 young adults in the transitional housing program are on the verge of getting eviction notices. If California does not get nearly $7 billion in federal funds soon, the governor has listed numerous programs for total elimination, including this service.

In the Bay Area, that means 526 former foster kids will have nowhere to live starting in July. Since some of them have children of their own, the number is actually higher.

Antonique Hawkins begged lawmakers to stop the cuts. The once homeless teen is now successfully living on her own thanks to transitional housing.

"I know for sure I'd be homeless. I'd be probably dead. I don't know what I'd be doing. I wouldn't be on the right track," she said.

But the Governor's Office says the cuts are not a done deal. Schwarzenegger has so far gotten nearly half of the federal money.

"So if we get the money from the federal government that we're owed, we don't have to make any of the cuts," Schwarzenegger's Press Secretary Aaron McLear.

Suamhirs Rivera, though, knows Washington has never met all of California's demands.

"One of my worst fears is to become homeless," he said.

State funding for transitional housing has actually grown under Schwarzenegger from $4 million in 2004 to a proposed $40 million next year if the federal money comes through.

Because of the budget crisis, socials programs have taken a huge toll.


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