July 5, 2024

From Car to Capitol: Wednesday Pope Champions Foster Care Reform

From Car to Capitol: Wednesday Pope Champions Foster Care Reform

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) Youth Advocate Wednesday Pope lived in her car for a full year while she was in foster care because her foster care payment was not adequate to pay rent. She considered her car her “saving grace” because without it she would have had to live in much less safe settings. 

Thanks to Wednesday, and a statewide coalition led by JBAY, a car is no longer going to be a suitable living setting for a foster youth. Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California State Budget, which increases the foster care rate for youth placed in the same foster care placement where Wednesday lived: a Supervised Independent Living Placement. Instead of receiving just $1,206 per month as they do in 2024, young people in this specific foster care placement will receive $2,288, or $27,456 per year starting in 2027.

This victory meant a lot to Wednesday, “As a foster youth who was homeless, it was gratifying knowing that I can prevent the same trauma that I experienced This is such an amazing win. We have helped so many youth.”

JBAY has been working to increase housing affordability for foster youth placed in a SILP for two years. JBAY’s original proposal, adopted in last year’s budget, was a supplemental payment based on the cost of housing in the county where the youth lives. The approach in the current budget is slightly different but will get the job done, according to JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley

“We are delighted that the over 3,000 foster youth placed in a SILP will have the financial resources to secure and maintain housing. As a state, we can be proud that we are no longer just waiting for the housing crisis to pass but rather developing practical housing solutions for foster youth.” 

For Wednesday, this policy change is part of California honoring its commitment to foster youth, “We simply cannot continue to offer the promise of foster care to provide safety, and then inadequately fund that promise. It’s not reasonable to say that the average 18-year-old can navigate California’s economy, especially when you’re saying this to a person who has already experienced significant trauma, or in my case, had already experienced homelessness with my family before being placed in foster care.”

Thanks to this policy change, youth in foster care today can rest a little easier. “There are kids who are in foster care right now that are looking at the financial situation when they turn 18 and they know how grim it is. Looking forward, they’re going to be able to say, it’s going to be okay.”

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