Task Forces

Please use the toggle below for more information on each of our current focus areas.

Foster Care

Foster Care

“Foster youth don’t vote, you have to make this commitment from the heart.”
— Johnny Madrid, former foster youth

Background

One quarter of all of California’s foster children are living in Los Angeles County.   Research shows that children entering the foster care system are at risk for mental health issues and substance abuse problems and too often end up in the criminal justice system.  Federal and state legislation sets the policy framework for child welfare services and foster care in California. The Everychild Public Policy Committee advocates on behalf of Los Angeles County’s foster children and transitioning foster youth (those who have turned 18 and are no longer necessarily eligible for state provided care and support).  Helping foster children not only alleviates their suffering now, it avoids future social costs that result from their neglect.

 

Public Policy Committee Work in This Area

1.  Legislative Support

2010:  Policy Committee Members successfully wrote letters and made phone calls on behalf of the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB 12).  This bill extends benefits to eligible youth aging out of the foster care system.  Foster youth will have the option of staying in care until the age of 21 with increased foster care placement options. This bill was signed into law in 2010.

2008:  Policy Committee Members supported the Federal Fostering Connections for Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provided federal dollars to allow foster youth to remain in care until age 21.  Everychild President, Jacqueline Caster, was part of a group of national experts who convened at Chapin Hall, University of Chicago, to consult with Senator Barbara Boxer, the bill’s author, on the mechanics of the legislation.  After this bill became law, each state was required to pass legislation to match the federal dollars.  AB 12, signed into law in 2010, was the California bill.

2007:  Policy Committee Members supported state legislation that eliminated the required county match for state funding of the Transitional Housing PLUS program.  THP Plus provides housing and services for aging out youth, and many counties had to previously forego badly needed state funds when they were unable to provide the matching dollars.

2.  Policy Network and Coalition Building: The Policy Committee has identified key people who are advocating for foster children in Los Angeles, including foster care groups and legislative representatives, and is building and maintaining long term alliances with foster care providers and advocacy groups.

3.  Data collection:  The Policy Committee has compiled data on health, education and other issues affecting foster children.

4.  Educating Members:  The Policy Committee has worked with the Everychild Member Salon to sponsor salons and workshops on foster care issues.


Ongoing and Future Initiatives

1.  Continued Support for Federal and State Legislation

  • California AB 181:  Foster Youth Mental Health Bill of Right.  This bill will provide additional rights to foster youth relating to mental health services and would require that the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsman provide materials explaining these rights to foster youth.
  • U.S. Senate 420:  Foster Care Mentoring Act of 2011 (sponsored by Senator Mary Landrieu and Representative Karen Bass).  This bill will provide funding for mentors to connect children in foster care with responsible caring adults.

2.  Awareness Raising:  Become content experts and publish articles/blogs, expand social media exposure and sponsor salons and workshops.

3.  Support of Community Service Projects:  Help establish a health data base for foster children so that their medical history follows them during transitions.

4.  Collect and Correlate Objective Data To Show That Outcomes Are Worth Supporting

Homeless Youth

Homeless Children and Youth

… my Dad had cancer and stuff. He was the man of the house, so when he passed away, I needed to step up and, you know, take his spot. And I did…then another male figure, you know, tried to step in the picture and I got moved out”.  – African American, Male, Age 17*

*(No Way Home, published 11/20 by Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership, page 29)

 

Background

The Everychild Foundation Public Policy Committee has been studying the issue of homeless youth in Los Angeles since late 2009 when it became apparent that the population of unaccompanied homeless youth includes children from the underserved populations Everychild cares about:  foster youth, abused and neglected children, and marginalized youth.  Homelessness was adopted as a Policy Committee focus area in January 2010, and the Policy Committee has worked to connect with local service providers, interested funders and elected officials to bring greater attention to the needs of unaccompanied homeless youth.

 

The Problem

Each year Los Angeles County is home to nearly 9,500 unaccompanied homeless youth, most between the ages of 12-24.  Unaccompanied homeless youth include children who have been forced from their homes or are attempting to escape untenable living conditions, such as parental substance abuse, mental, physical and sexual abuse, “emancipation” from foster care and other similar conditions.  Most homeless youth have insufficient life skills, resources, community support or the emotional support necessary to deal with the stresses of young adulthood.  Years of abuse and neglect compound mental health distress, often manifesting in symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, suicidal ideation, substance abuse and other behavioral health issues.

Once on the streets, the need to survive and to cope cause youth to compromise their health and well being through high-risk behaviors including prostitution, increased substance abuse, illegal activity and violence.  In turn, they are at greater risk of continued victimization and contracting life-threatening diseases.  They often engage in disruptive behavior thereby increasing the likelihood of juvenile detention and incarceration.  These crippling effects severely compromise the health and well-being of homeless youth and jeopardize their efforts to reconnect with society and succeed at education and employment.  Without appropriate and compassionate intervention, homeless youth are destined to enter an irreversible cycle of chronic homelessness, total dependence on welfare, and permanent aversion to society.

General Statistics
(drawn from www.myfriendsplace.org)

• More than 1.3 million children in the United States are homeless at some time each year.
• In 2004, child protective services agencies reported that an estimated 872,000 children were victims of child abuse or neglect.
• 12-17 year olds are at more risk of homelessness than are adults.
• Nearly 20,000 foster youth age out from foster care each year.
• In California, 65% of emancipated foster youth lack stable housing, end up on the streets, and later fall into chronic homelessness.
• Almost half of homeless school-aged children have witnessed domestic violence and 44% of homeless youth report that one or both of the parents had at some point received treatment for substance abuse or psychological problems.
• Prior to leaving home, 43% of youth report being beaten by a caretaker, and 25% have had a caretaker request sexual activity.
• Almost half of homeless school-aged children have witnessed domestic violence.

Committee Work in This Area

1.  Los Angeles Homeless Funders Group:  In 2009 the Policy Committee accepted an invitation to attend a meeting of the Los Angeles Homeless Funders Group, a network of local philanthropic foundations and government agencies.  The Homeless Funders Group’s goal is to develop and implement strategic, coordinated regional investment to end homelessness in Los Angeles County. After approving the mission and focus of the group, the Policy Committee appointed a permanent representative to the Homeless Funders Group  and has played an active role in the meetings.  The Policy Committee has acted as a voice for homeless youth and has been instrumental in bringing the homeless youth issue to the forefront of the discussion, especially as it relates to long term, chronic homelessness.

 

2.  Building a Policy Network Around Homelessness in Youth:  Much time is being spent building relationships, attending workshops and conferences and increasing the Policy Committee’s overall understanding about the systemic failures that lead to youth homelessness.  Policy Committee Representatives are seeking to raise awareness in the funding and policy communities around the need to improve services for homeless youth.

 

3.  Hosted Workshop for Funders:  In September 2010, the Policy Committee held a workshop at The Rand Corporation to educate its members and other local foundations on the issue of homelessness youth. This workshop focused on the current issues and policies as well as programmatic and service gaps.  Panelists from My Friend’s Place, Los Angeles Youth Network (LAYN) and Public Counsel Law Center provided insight into the nature of youth homelessness, the lack of stable shelters and housing to support homeless young people and the need to broad the partnerships between the public and private sectors to leverage existing practices and resources to better solve the homeless youth crisis.

 

4.  Homeless Youth and the LA Public Library:  In November 2010, Policy Committee Members facilitated a meeting between representatives from Everychild, the Teen’Scape Center of the LA Downtown Public Library, Public Counsel and LAYN to discuss the increasing usage of the Library as a safe place for homeless youth.  During the course of this meeting it was learned that homeless youth were often unable to access public computers due to a lack of a library card.  After a series of discussions in May of 2011 the LA Downtown Public Library announced that temporary cards would be made widely available for homeless youth.  Policy Committee Members also facilitated a presentation at the quarterly meeting of librarians on barriers facing homeless youth and some ways librarians can help.  To better assist the librarians in accessing services for these youth, the Policy Committee is preparing a directory of service providers for librarian use.  It is expected that it will be distributed in 2012.

 

Infants and Toddlers

Infants and Toddlers Ages Zero to Three

“It is a rare public policy initiative that promotes fairness and social justice, and, at the same time, promotes productivity in the economy and society at large. Investing in disadvantaged young children is such a policy.”

— James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics

Background

The Everychild Foundation joined the Los Angeles Partnership for Early Childhood Investment (or its precursor entity) in 2006 and quickly learned how important investment in the early years is to the life outcomes of children, especially those at risk due to poverty, neglect, abuse, disease or cognitive condition.  Soon after its formation, the Public Policy Committee (PPC) adopted the arena policy directed at children ages zero to three as one of its first focus areas.  Since that time the PPC has maintained a strong commitment to alleviating systemic challenges to providing needed support to local infants and toddlers by developing relationships with local funders and educating others about the critical needs of our youngest population.

Why the Early Years Are Critical

The early years are critical for a child’s learning, skill acquisition and physical and emotional health.  Neuroscience demonstrates that disrupted or unhealthy early relationships negatively impact brain development, while other research has shown that a child’s lifelong emotional resiliency and ability to form relationships based on appropriate emotional attachments are harmed by significant life stressors to infants and toddlers.  Research shows that emotional development including the ability to manage one’s own behavior, express emotions appropriately and establish and maintain healthy relationships is uniquely dependent on the experiences of early childhood.

Risk factors that negatively impact a child’s brain development and emotional health include a lack of nurturing relationships, foster care placement, abuse and neglect, poor quality child care and poverty.  Poverty in infants and toddlers is also associated with other risks to age-appropriate development including poor health care for children and expectant mothers, greater risk of birth-related problems, poor nutrition, and chronic health problems such as asthma and diabetes.  Other significant risks to children under the age of three include: teen parents; pre and post-natal exposure to tobacco, drugs and alcohol; chronic illness; physical, emotional or cognitive disabilities; and exposure to environmental risks such as poor air quality (increasing susceptibility to asthma and other respiratory problems) and lead paint (which may reduce brain function).

LA’s Zero to Three Population

More than 575,000 children under the age of three live in Los Angeles County.  According to researchers, adverse early environments are strong predictors of failure in school and in adulthood, and the return on investments in human capital is highest for the early years.   Yet a significant number of Los Angeles children aged zero to three live at or below 185% of the federal poverty line.   Infants and toddlers suffer alarming rates of abuse and neglect:  these young children are more likely to be removed from their homes and placed in the Los Angeles foster care system than other age groups and are more likely to be spending months in foster care in multiple placements.  Slum housing risks as well as other early exposure to toxic environmental substances (such as alcohol, drugs, lead, pesticides and other toxins) disrupts brain development and can result in disabling conditions with some lasting throughout a child’s life.   Local infants and toddlers who have physical, social or cognitive disabilities too frequently do not receive early identification and intervention programming needed to dramatically improve their life outcomes.

Committee Work in This Area

1.  LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment:  In 2006, Everychild joined the precursor organization to the LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment. The mission of the partnership is to increase investment and promote positive change in life outcomes for local children ages zero to five. The partnership has three focus areas: promote investment in family strengthening models, pursue and support local strategies that leverage public financial support of local children, and seek to engage the business community in the support of early childhood issues.

In 2007 Everychild’s member representative (who was also the chair of the Public Policy Committee) was invited to join the steering committee of this collaborative of public and private funding entities and in 2011, she assumed the role of chair of this important organization.

2.  Baby Futures Conferences:  Everychild participated in the 2007 Baby Futures Conference and was on the organizational and planning committee for the 2008 Baby Futures Conference. These conferences featured national and local speakers who spoke to local elected officials, business and philanthropy leaders about brain science, early childhood and the economic and political rationale for increasing investment in the early years. Everychild’s Public Policy Committee Chair was the featured policy speaker at the conference.

3.  Policy Network and Coalition Building:  Much time has been spent building relationships, attending workshops and conferences and increasing the Public Policy Committee’s overall understanding about the systemic barriers to providing much needed support to our youngest children and their caregivers.

4.  Hosted Workshops:  The Public Policy Committee hosted advocacy training on how to “Be a Voice for Babies” and other infants and toddlers policy issues such as briefings on adoption, early identification and intervention for children with disabilities, and the unique needs of young children who are placed in the foster care system.  The PPC also assisted in the organization of an Everychild Member Salon, which featured speakers from the national organization Zero to Three.

Ongoing and Future Initiatives

1.  Continue to ensure that children’s policy discussion includes the unique needs of infants and toddlers.

2.  Work to establish a countywide mechanism to provide better support to infants and toddlers in foster care.

3.  Monitor state and local legislation and educate members about bills that improve early childcare, nutrition and health.

4.  Raise member and community awareness about the unique and critical needs of infants and toddlers.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice

Background

By the time children enter the criminal justice system, they have typically endured tremendous stress, abuse and neglect, and, when incarcerated, are often traumatized further, according to the 2020 California Children’s Report Card provided by Children Now.

This, plus the fact that current brain research shows that the section of a teen’s brain which weighs consequences is typically not fully developed until at least age 25, means that children simply cannot be handled as mini-adults. Rather, they must be provided with treatment appropriate for their age and level of development and which takes into account their ability to change and mature.

We are Making a Difference.

Everychild Foundation first became involved with juvenile justice issues when it awarded its 2003 grant to Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services. The gift funded construction of a new learning center for kids exiting the justice system and transitioning back into the community. Our interactions with Optimist helped our members become more familiar with the deep needs of this very neglected population and the failure of the County of Los Angeles Probation Department to address them.

Everychild Founder, Jacqueline Caster, in particular, has since become an outspoken critic of the Department which runs the County’s juvenile incarceration facilities. She has been published in the Los Angeles Times and frequently quoted in local news coverage.* During the Obama Administration, she was a participant in two different White House convenings on juvenile justice matters. Currently, she serves on the Los Angeles County Probation Commission which conducts inspections of the juvenile facilities and is a member of a task force authorized by the Board of Supervisors to create a blueprint for a reformed system. The mandate is to design a system focused upon well-being of the youth in its care instead of the existing failed punishment-based model that only leads more youth toward the path to adult incarceration. One of her strong areas of focus has been to assure that any system includes an independent grievance process for the youth to assure better care and protection of their rights and general transparency.

Other issues of importance to the Committee include:

Sentencing Reform

The members of our Juvenile Justice Task Force have supported numerous pieces of state legislation related to sentencing reform that has been signed into law by the Governor. In some cases, members made calls and visits to decision-makers, and, in others, encouraged the general Everychild membership to join them in writing letters and emails. Some of the more recent successful bills supported are below:

AB 1308 – Signed by Governor, 2017: Amends Penal Code Section 3501, which provided that the Board of Parole conduct youth offender parole hearings to consider the release of offenders who committed specified crimes when they were under 23 years of age and who were sentenced to state prison. The amendment instead requires the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct youth offender parole hearings for offenders sentenced to state prison who committed those specified crimes when they were 25 years of age or younger. The law required the board to complete, by January 1, 2020, all youth offender parole hearings for individuals who were sentenced to indeterminate life terms who become entitled to have their parole suitability considered at a youth offender parole hearing on the effective date of the bill. The bill also requires the board to complete all youth offender parole hearings for individuals who were sentenced to determinate terms who become entitled to have their parole suitability considered at a youth offender parole hearing on the effective date of the bill by January 1, 2022, and required the board, for these individuals, to conduct a specified consultation before January 1, 2019. A letter was sent to Gov. Brown September 2017.
SB 9 – Signed by Governor, September 2012: Allows youth sentenced to die in prison the chance to petition for reconsideration of the sentences after they have served 15 years; at that point, judges will have the option to change a sentence from life without parole to 25 years to life. Many calls and letters were sent to key Senators, including several conversations with one who turned out to be the critical swing voter, and to the Governor.
SB 190 – Signed by Governor, October 11, 2017: Abolishes all administrative fees in juvenile delinquency cases. Previously, California gave counties the discretion to impose a variety of fees in juvenile cases, and every county in the state, except, San Francisco chose to impose some or all of the fees. SB 190 eliminates the ability of counties to assess fees for justice-involved youth related to incarceration, legal representation, electronic monitoring, probation of home supervision, or drug testing. Letter sent to Governor Brown September 25, 2017.
SB 260 – Signed by Governor, September 2013: Requires the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct a youth offender parole hearing to consider release of offenders who committed specified crimes prior to being 18 years of age and who were sentenced to state prison. The bill makes a person eligible for release on parole at a youth offender parole hearing during the 15th year of incarceration if the person meeting these criteria received a determinate sentence, during the 20th year if the person received a sentence that was less than 25 years to life, and during the 25th year of incarceration if the person received a sentence that was 25 years to life. The bill requires the board, in reviewing a prisoner’s suitability for parole, to give great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the prisoner in accordance with relevant case law. Letters and calls were made to various key State Senators and to the Governor.
SB 394 – Signed by Governor, October 11, 2017: Makes a person who was convicted of a controlling offense that was committed before the person had attained 18 years of age and for which a life sentence without the possibility of parole had been imposed eligible for release on parole by the board during his or her 25th year of incarceration at a youth offender parole hearing. The bill requires the board to complete, by July 1, 2020, all hearings for individuals who are or will be entitled to have their parole suitability considered at a youth offender parole hearing by these provisions before July 1, 2020. Letters were sent to Governor Brown September 25, 2017.
SB 395 – Signed by the Governor, October 11, 2017: Requires that a youth 15 years of age or younger consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference prior to a custodial interrogation and before specified rights. The bill prohibits a waiver of the consultation, requires a court to consider the effect of the failure to comply with the above-specified requirement in adjudicating the admissibility of statements of a youth 15 years of age or younger made during or after a custodial interrogation and clarifies that these provisions do not apply to the admissibility of statements of a youth 15 years of age or younger if certain criteria are met. Letter sent to Governor Brown September 25, 2017.
SB 439 – Signed by Governor, September 30, 2018; Sets a minimum age (12) for juvenile court prosecution. Letter of support was sent to Chair, State Senate Committee on Public Safety Nancy Skinner on March 31, 2017.
SB 1391 – Signed by Governor, September 2018: Ends transfer of children, ages 14 and 15 to adult court. Letter of support was sent to Chair of Public Safety Nancy Skinner on March 22, 2018. Members were also encouraged to send letters

Missouri Model

Everychild has also been integrally involved in convincing Los Angeles County officials to adopt the highly-renowned Missouri Model restorative justice approach to youth incarceration. In 2008, Ms. Caster organized a trip with an array of county officials, advocates, and academics to Kansas City to meet with the creator of the model, Mark Steward, and to tour its facilities. The trip helped to inspire the County to build a new facility, Campus Kilpatrick in Malibu, which replaced a former traditional camp. Youth at the rebuilt campus live in small cottages instead of a large dormitory, and the co-residents bond as a family unit and learn anger management. They participate in ongoing trauma-informed therapeutic group sessions and their parents are incorporated into the treatment plan. With some tweaks to the original Missouri Model, the Kilpatrick program is referred to as The Los Angeles Model.

Arrest Diversion

In 2011, Everychild Foundation’s annual grant funded a “diversion program” at Centinela Youth Services. The program provides eligible youth offenders with a fresh start and for charges to be dropped if they participate in a therapeutic program which includes victim-offender mediation. Youth would be diverted to the program delinquency court judges. The system was deemed a success as recidivism rates of participating youth were lower compared to non-participants.

However, it soon became evident that the youth would be even better served being diverted earlier, right after arrest, instead of waiting weeks or months for their courtroom appearance. As a result, Ms. Caster approached Chief Beck, then head of the Los Angeles Police Department to initiate a pilot program in their 77th and Southeast districts. The program was, in fact, launched, becoming the first arrest diversion program in the State of California. Due to its effectiveness in reducing recidivism rates even further, it was quickly expanded to other LAPD districts and many other cities in the County (Compton, Hawthorne, and Huntington Park to name just a few). It later helped serve as part of the inspiration for the creation of the County’s new Office of Youth Diversion and Development.

What’s Next?

Currently, the Task Force is most focused upon the following issues:

  • Assuring Campus Kilpatrick’s Los Angeles Model is implemented with fidelity
  • Continued advocacy for the move toward a system of care addressing mental health needs of juvenile offenders and to provide appropriate treatment to incarcerated youth in lieu of solitary confinement and physical force
  • More transparency and accountability from the County, especially pertaining to the state Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act funding stream for preventive services
  • More enrichment, academic and social services for youth while under the County’s care
  • Increased focus on the County’s youth diversion efforts to keep the referrals going