• Foster Care
  • Homeless Youth
  • Infants and Toddlers
  • Juvenile Justice

Foster Care

Background

Well-established research shows that children in foster care are more likely than their non-foster care peers to be absent from school, have special education needs, and experience traumatic life events. In turn, they are also less likely to graduate high school and to attend/graduate from college. These young people either live in temporary housing provided by the state, are cared for by relatives or unrelated foster parents, or are placed in other residential facilities, like group homes. They are constantly frustrated with a system that feels unmanageable and often feel their voices go unheard. By networking with other advocacy organizations in California, including Children Now, Alliance for Children’s Rights and John Burton Advocates for Youth, we continue to focus on the crucial issues for youth in foster care. With greater public awareness of the issues and of the resources available, it is possible to increase positive outcomes for this population in our state.

We are Making a Difference

Early in 2020, a bill, AB-2005, was introduced which would provide support for foster care youth with developmental disabilities who are transitioning out of the foster care system. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this bill like many others has been put on hold, but our committee will continue to monitor and provide support going forward. AB 718 was signed by the Governor in October 2019, one month after we joined with other child advocacy organizations to send a letter of support. This bill ensures that youth in foster care are given essential documents most of us take for granted such as a birth certificate, social security card, and health records beginning at the time they are 16 years old, so that they can are able to apply for academic aid, a driver’s license, an apartment or a job. Additionally, it provides financial aid eligibility documentation, assistance applying for college or a vocational program and assistance finding housing. SB-12 was signed by the Governor in October 2017. Everychild Foundation sent a letter of support to the Governor, and the general membership was also encouraged to send personal letters. This bill‘s goal is to improve post-secondary achievement among foster youth by increasing the rate of financial aid, provide assistance to complete necessary post-secondary documents and increase access to on-campus based services.

What’s Next?

  • The Task Force has strongly supported the Family Urgent Response System (FURS) which is intended to help increase foster placement stability. It would provide on-demand support for foster youth and caregivers when challenging situations arise, including a 24/7 hotline and a mobile response team. AB-2043 was vetoed by Governor Brown in 2018. However the Task Force is continuing to work with partner organizations on implementing these valuable resources.
  • Awareness Raising: The Task Force strives to become content experts and publish articles/blogs, expand social media exposure and sponsor salons and workshops.
  • Supporting bills that assist foster youth to obtain computer access for educational and job advancement and supporting the efforts of advocacy groups in Los Angeles to ensure that foster youth actually receive personal documentation, including a driver’s license or State identification, that are required to open a bank account or to access various jobs.

Homeless Youth

Background

Homeless children are confronted with stressful and traumatic events that they often are too young to understand, leading to severe emotional distress. Homeless children experience stress through constant changes, which accumulate with time. These stressful changes result in a higher incidence of mental disorders, which become manifested in homeless children’s behavior. Their academic performance is hampered by poor cognitive development. It is fundamental to break the cycle of homelessness by providing these children with the health services, professional help for mental illness, parenting support, afterschool programs, and nutritional support that they so desperately need.
Within this population there are two segments:
  • Homeless youth, sometimes referred to as “unaccompanied” youth, are individuals who lack parental, foster, or institutional care. These are youth who have been forced to leave their homes (often due to sexual or gender choices), who have run away (due to physical or sexual abuse) or who have aged out of the foster care system and have nowhere to go.
  • Homeless children are residing with one or both parents but nevertheless lead a transient life which impacts their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral development. Parents are often ashamed to admit to being homeless and therefore do not seek out specialized social services to help their children. Because schools have difficulty identifying these children, they often cannot provide much needed assistance and attention.
According to the 2020 Greater LA Homeless Count, LA saw a 19% increase in homelessness among Transition Age Youth (TAY) Households and Unaccompanied Minors, which includes both individuals 18-24 and members of families headed by persons 18-24. Minor children in TAY-headed families and unaccompanied minors comprise 7% of this population.

We are Making a Difference

The Everychild Foundation Policy & Activism Committee has been studying the issue of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles since late 2009 and continue to focus on this issue. In April 2020, we joined with over 700 other organizations on a letter coordinated by Children Now to the Governor to ensure that children and crucial programs remain a priority in the upcoming state budget. The Policy & Activism Committee supported SB 918 The Homeless Youth Act of 2018, a bill created by co-sponsors the California Coalition for Youth and John Burton Advocates for Youth, to establish $60 million in grants for housing, services and supports for youth experiencing homelessness and to create the Office of Homeless Youth within the California Department of Housing and Community Development. In September 2018 Governor Brown signed SB 918. The committee also voted to support Measure H on the March 2018 ballot, an important initiative to provide critically needed services to those who are homeless in LA County. An email was sent to the members of Everychild with information. The measure was approved.

What’s Next?

Much time is being spent building relationships, attending workshops and conferences and increasing the overall understanding about the systemic failures that lead to youth homelessness.
  • The Task Force is seeking to raise awareness in the funding and policy communities around the need to improve services for homeless youth and to ensure that this population is not overlooked.

0-5 Children

Background

The early years are critical for a child’s learning, skill acquisition, 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. The Everychild Foundation realizes 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. Since that time, the Foundation has maintained a strong commitment to alleviating systemic challenges to providing needed support to local infants and toddlers by developing relationships with local advocacy organizations and educating others about the critical needs of our youngest population.

We are Making a Difference

Much time has been spent building relationships, attending workshops and conferences and increasing the Committee’s overall understanding about the systemic barriers to providing much needed support to our youngest children and their caregivers.
Dangerous Pesticides Ban: The 0-5 Children Task Force focused a great deal of time and energy on this issue. Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide which causes diminished brain capacity, including lower IQs and working memory. Exposure to Chlorpyrifos increases the risk of hyperactivity (ADHD), reduced motor development, and autism in our kids. Studies, including one conducted in California, have linked exposure to Chlorpyrifos and related pesticides to lung damage and disease in children. In 2019 as part of the Nancy Daly Salon Series a salon was hosted by a member of the 0-5 Children Task Force on the dangers of Chlorpyrifos and a petition to ban the pesticide in California was sent to the entire Everychild Foundation membership. In May 2019, Governor Newsom announced a decision to take steps towards banning Chlorpyrifos, and in October 2019 California announced that all use of chlorpyrifos will finally be phased out by the end of 2020.
Screening Services for Children (AB-1004): This bill, signed by the Governor in September 2019 and supported by the Everychild Foundation among other child advocacy organizations, will help ensure California’s babies and toddlers receive developmental screenings and eventually services which they are entitled to through Medi-Cal. The bill also improves oversight by aligning the state's reporting requirements for developmental screening with implementation of the federal reporting requirements on the Core Set of Children's Health Care Quality Measures for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that take effect in 2024.
State of California Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: The State of California’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care was announced in November 2019 by Governor Newsom, whose goal is to achieve universal preschool and a comprehensive, quality, and affordable child care system. The Master Plan is expected to be released in late 2020 and the 0-5 Children Task Force is determining actions to support the Master Plan with local advocacy organizations, particularly in light of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the state budget.

What’s Next?

  • Continue to ensure that the children’s policy discussion includes the unique needs of infants and toddlers.
  • Work to establish a countywide mechanism to provide better support to infants and toddlers in foster care.
  • Monitor state and local legislation and educate members about bills that improve early childcare, nutrition and health.
  • Raise member and community awareness about the unique and critical needs of infants and toddlers.

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 have 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. 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