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County to Benefit from State Funding to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care

Santa Clara County Starting Pilot Project with 3 Out of 14 California Counties Selected as Grant Recipients

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF - This week, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors budgeted $400,000 in State funding for year one of a grant to reduce the time African American children and youth spend in the foster care system. This grant will fund a five-year pilot program to examine barriers to finding permanent homes for the youth and identify practices that have proved effective in eliminating such barriers. The State is looking to replicate successful strategies throughout California.

“We are committed to addressing the needs of African American youth who are disproportionately represented within the California child welfare system, and face critical barriers to finding a permanent home,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Dave Cortese, Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee. “Collaborating with State, local and non-profit agencies we can exchange knowledge and experiences, and explore options to develop a system that could be a model for other counties to follow.”

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) received funding approval for the five-year grant through the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families for the California Partnership to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care. Fourteen California Counties were selected as grant recipients with no matching funds requirements. Santa Clara County was approved to receive $2,770,000 over the five-year grant period, from September 2010 through September 29, 2015.

“This funding will directly benefit our children and youth, by reducing the time they spend in the County’s foster care system,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor George Shirakawa, Vice Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee. “We’ve made progress, but these resources will get to the heart of this issue.”

Over the last decade, California has managed to reduce its foster care population by roughly 40 percent, thanks to ongoing efforts to find permanent families for children, and prevent the need for children to enter foster care.

Between January 2000 and January 2010, Santa Clara County’s foster care population decreased 53 percent, from 2658 to 1260. However, although African American children are only two percent of the child population in Santa Clara County, approximately 13 percent of youth in the County’s long-term foster care are African American. The County’s most recent data indicates that as of April 2010, 621 children have been in foster care in Santa Clara County for 24 months or longer, with 39 percent having been in care 60 or more months.

“Although this particular State grant targets African American and Native American Youth in the State, we have a significant opportunity to apply solutions to all youth in our care,” said Will Lightbourne, Director of Santa Clara County Social Services Agency. “We also will integrate our findings and best practices into the local Children of Color Plan activities, and expand them to Latino and Asian youth and families.”

About the California Partnership to reduce Long-Term Foster Care Grant

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) applied for and received a five-year grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Children and Families for the California Partnership to Reduce Long-term Foster Care. The Presidential Initiative to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care is an investment in improving the foster care system with a budget of $14.5 million per grant.

The Social Services Agency has entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the California Department of Social Services outlining the roles and responsibilities and funding allotment associated with the participation of the grant. The MOU will be for five years. Each year of funding will be approved annually based on available federal government funding and program outcomes.

CDSS will coordinate the grant implementation with 14 counties. Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Fresno and Humboldt were selected as pilot counties and early implementers of the program because they make up a representative sample of geographic, ethnic and income diversity throughout the state. These counties also have prior experience implementing innovative child welfare strategies, and have significant numbers of the target population, and account for nearly 40 percent of the statewide child welfare system in foster care throughout California.

Partners of the program include the Child Welfare Co-Investment Partnership, County Welfare Directors Association, Child & Family Policy Institute of California, Administrative Office of the Courts, UC Berkeley Center for Social Services Research, California Social Work Education Center, California Youth Connection and the Center of the Study of Social Policy.

The partnership’s project approach is based on the following theory of change: practice, organizational and system changes at the local level supported by a strengthened and coordinated statewide infrastructure of training, coaching, quality assurance, and a supportive policy development and financing that will result in log term foster care for African American and Native American children and youth.

The first desired outcome of the State grant is to reduce long-term foster care specifically among African American and Native American children, youth and families. The objectives include a reduction in the number of foster care entries, increased timelines of permanent placement, removal of identified barriers to permanency planning and the removal of negative incentives to adoption.

The second desired outcome is to improve child well-being specifically among African American and Native American children, youth and families. The objectives includes the creation of an integrated system of services that includes substance abuse treatment for indicated parents, improved behavioral health for children by creating an integrated system of services that recognizes the impact of loss, grief and trauma, a reduction in the number of children in foster care who exit into the criminal justice system, and improved educational outcomes.

Media Contacts: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119; Nicole Huff, Social Services Agency (408) 491-6750
Posted: December 16, 2010