Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law AB 388 (Chesbro) requiring oversight on the use of law enforcement in group homes, limiting the unnecessary secure detention of foster youth, and providing the same protections for foster youth that non-foster youth living at home with parents routinely receive when they come into contact with the delinquency system. The Youth Law Center partnered with the California Youth Connection, the Children’s Advocacy Institute, and Public Counsel to co-sponsor AB 388 to prevent foster youth from needlessly crossing over into the delinquency system and address the disparate treatment crossover youth face simply because of their foster care status. AB 388 was informed by research and our years of experience dealing with issues impacting youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Too often, group homes respond inappropriately to normal adolescent behavior—such as fighting with peers, challenging authority figures, using property of another without permission and damaging property—by calling the police. Once arrested, many foster youth are needlessly locked up in juvenile halls because they are without a parent to whom they can be released, a placement to return to, and a child welfare agency wiling to place them in a new foster care setting. Foster youth who come into contact with the delinquency system can get caught up in the bureaucracy of the two agencies and the context of the youth’s “misbehavior,” which forms the underlying basis for the charge, is often over-looked.
Consequences of involvement with the delinquency system are grave. Formal involvement in the delinquency system can stigmatize a youth, affect immigration status, diminish a foster youth’s potential to achieve permanency and successfully transition to adulthood and independence. Research has shown that youth who are involved in both the foster care system and the delinquency system experience long-term negative outcomes in education, employment and other major life domains.
AB 388 requires Community Care Licensing to develop group home performance standards and outcome measures related to law enforcement referrals, increase inspections of group homes with high referral rates, and publish annually reports on group home licensing enforcement information including law enforcement contacts and complaints. Also, group homes are required to implement strategies to minimize law enforcement referrals. AB 388 will strengthens the WIC 241.1 crossover process for dual system involved youth by including specific considerations for youth who were referred to law enforcement from group homes, as well as the detention of foster youth in secure confinement. AB 388 creates more equitable detention criteria for foster youth referred on delinquency charges by prohibiting courts at detention hearings from basing an order to hold a youth in secure confinement on the minor’s status as a foster youth (300 dependent) or based on child welfare’s inability to provide a placement for the minor. Additionally, AB 388 limits the imposition of certain fines where the minor is a 300 dependent.
Foster youth should not be unfairly subjected to arrest, detention, and prosecution for typical misbehavior that would normally be managed by a competent parent. AB 388 helps combat the disparate treatment of foster youth in juvenile justice, and will stem the flow of foster youth living in out-of-home placements into the delinquency system.