Don’t Neglect our Foster Children

May 10, 2010

By Chronicle Editorial  |  San Francisco Chronicle  —  

The last two years have brought a tremendous amount of pain to all of those who depend on government services, and California’s foster children are no exception.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto power to cut $80 million in funding for Child Welfare Services.

His staff insists that the governor, who has been supportive of foster care services, didn’t cut that money out of thoughtlessness or spite.

“The cut was necessitated by the fact that the state Assembly sent the governor a budget that wasn’t balanced,” said H.D. Palmer, the deputy director of the state Department of Finance.

That may have been the case, but the governor needs to restore that money for the 2010-11 budget year. He failed to do so in January. And since April tax receipts didn’t meet expectations, the governor will be tempted to maintain the cuts in his May budget revision, which will be released Friday.

Palmer said that the state’s 2010-11 budget gap was about $18.6 billion and that the number was subject to growing because of cuts that the legislature didn’t make in March.

“The issue of … restoration is going to have to be considered against the gap that we’re struggling with,” Palmer said. That doesn’t sound very optimistic.

So it’s crucial that the governor understands what’s at stake with these particular cuts. Cuts to foster care services wind up costing the state of California far more in the long term. Also, the amounts of money may be small as far as the state’s overall budget is concerned, but that money has a tremendous impact on California’s foster children – our children, our collective responsibility.

The cuts have forced counties to lay off social workers, breaking foster children’s link with one of the few adults who are consistently in their lives. The remaining social workers have seen their caseloads skyrocket – compromising foster children’s care and even their safety.

Small stipends (for personal items like bus passes or the deposit on an apartment) for emancipating foster youth have been slashed, along with the programs upon which they rely to learn skills like cooking and financial management.

The Legislature must restore the funding for these cuts, and the governor shouldn’t veto them again. California has been making great progress in improving the lives of foster children. We can’t afford to squander it just because of a tough budget year.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/10/EDOT1DAP8N.DTL

This article appeared on page A – 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle.