Foster children can often feel excluded from events and privileges at school because of a lack of funds.
Assemblyman Dante Acosta wants to change that.
Assembly Bill 754, announced Friday, will create the California Foster Youth Enrichment Grant Program to provide small grants of about $50 to $100 to foster youth across the state to pay for additional school costs like field trips, school supplies and caps and gowns.
“As a father, I have a special place in my heart for children in the foster system,” Acosta said in a statement to the Signal. “These are amazing kids who are facing a tough road. It’s our job as a state to do everything we can to make their lives as secure and uplifting as possible.”
Acosta said he aims for the bill to make foster kids feel loved and provided for. In light of his own childhood, Acosta said his mother provided well for him and his siblings and wants to ensure the same care for foster children.
“This program is a step in the direction of ensuring foster youth have some of the same blessings that I grew up with,” he said.
A statement from Acosta’s office said the bill will improve these children’s skills, abilities, self-esteem and overall well-being.
Acosta said these children overcome odds to get their high school diplomas but often cannot participate in commencement because they can’t afford their cap and gown. He said this is the case for many students in foster care and he refuses to accept it.
David Creager, Acosta’s chief of staff, said this subject has been an ongoing concern since the assemblyman was elected. Currently, the bill has been cosigned by Assemblywoman Catharine Baker and is anticipated to be signed by more assembly members soon. Currently, Acosta is working alongside the Republican caucus to move the bill forward.
“It’s a priority for us to try to have the state do a little bit more to assist kids through that process,” Creager said. “It’s such a tough thing. The numbers are heartbreaking when it comes to the percentage of foster youth who don’t graduate from high school.”
In fact, only 50 percent of foster youth graduate high school by age 18, according to a study by Andrew T. Wolanin.
Creager said these problems foster youth face is in part because they aren’t able to be fully engaged in the classroom because of their home lives.
“You could imagine if you go through your whole life feeling like no matter what you do, you’ll never quite get treated equally as the people around you,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to fix that problem.”
Funding for these grants would come from the existing state budget. According to Creager, the plan for the bill is for teachers or foster parents to put in requests for grants for a specific purpose and a specific amount of money to their county or a local nonprofit.
“It’s not a nebulous pot of money that goes who knows where, it’s definitely meeting its intended purpose,” Creager said.
Acosta and his office are currently in the process of reaching out to different groups and agencies to partner with in order to ensure the bill is of service to foster children, Creager said.
The chief of staff said every community has a heartbreaking number of foster kids, each area with their own set of problems. As of 2014, there were 62,097 children in foster care in California, 20,651 of those in Los Angeles County alone, according to kidsdata.org.
“It’s just about trying to do something good for the community and the state as a whole,” he said.
On Twitter as @ginaender